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    VERSE 12. A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. CHRIST, having admired his church’s faith and love, her language and her dress; proceeds to give farther commendations of her, and makes use of new metaphors to describe her by; in which he represents her as a wellwatered and fruitful garden.

    First, He says, she is, ‘a garden inclosed:’ the titles he gives her, ‘my sister, my spouse, have been explained in verse 8,9. I shall only here inquire why she is called a garden, and that an inclosed one. And she is said to be a garden,1. Because a garden is a piece of ground distinguished and separated from others for the owner’s use: the church of Christ is distinguished and separated from others by electing and redeeming grace; by efficacious calling grace saints are also made to differ from others, and do in their lives and conversation live separate from them; and being set apart for God’s own use, service, and glory, are a peculiar people to himself. 2. In a garden is a variety of flowers, herbs and plants: in Christ’s church are many members, and those of different sorts; they have gifts differing from one another, and grace also; some have greater gifts, and larger measures of grace than others have; Put in them all there are many of those sweet flowers and precious plants. 3. In a garden, flowers, herbs and plants, do not grow up naturally of themselves, but are either set or sown; nothing but weeds grow up of themselves; so in Christ’s garden, the church, and in the members of it, the graces of the Spirit do not grow up of themselves; they are sown, planted, and raised up by the Spirit of God; for in their hearts naturally grow nothing but the weeds of sin and corruption. 4. The ground must be dug and prepared far the setting of plants and herbs therein: the hearts of God’s people before conversion are like fallowground; God is the husbandman, and they are his husbandry, this ground must be dunged, as well as dug, before it becomes good ground, or ever these flowers, herbs, and plants will grow there, which method Christ takes with his garden, and the several parts thereof. 5. To keep a garden in order, requires a deal of labor and care; the stones must be gathered out, the plants must be watered, the trees pruned, the ground dunged, and the fences kept up: all this, and much more, does Christ to his garden, the church; he gathers out those things which offend and hinder the growth of his plants; he watches over them night and day, and waters them, every moment; he lops off the fruitless branches, and prunes those that are fruitful, that they may bring forth more fruit, and keep up the fences thereof, that ‘the wild boar of the forest’ may not enter in, and destroy his garden. 6. Gardens are places where persons delight to walk: Christ walks in his garden, the church; in the midst of his golden candlesticks; you frequently hear of him in this song, that ‘he is gone down into his garden, to feed’ there, and ‘to gather lilies;’ nay, he not only takes his walks, but takes up his residence in his church. 7. A garden is usually but a small piece of ground; and so is Christ’s church, in comparison of the wilderness and waste places of the world; it is a little flock, a small remnant, a few that shall be saved. 8. A fruitful and pleasant place; and so is the church, when compared with the world, ‘which lieth in wickedness,’ and is overrun with the briars and thorns of sin.

    Also the church is said to be a garden inclosed, (1.) For distinction-sake: the church is by God distinguished from others; the fence with which it is inclosed, and by which it is made to differ from others, is the free, special, and distinguishing grace of God. (2.) For protection: Christ’s church, as it is distinguished by God’s grace, so it is protected by his power; he is ‘a wall of fire round about it, and the glory in the midst of’ it; a noble fence indeed! a glorious inclosure! Jerusalem with all its mountains, and Zion with all its bulwarks, were not so well fenced as this. (3.) For secrecy: it is hidden from, and is not seen and known by the world; it is like a garden that is walled around, and closely locked and barred f1 , whose flowers emit a sweet and fragrant odor, but are not seen; the saints, though they are exceeding useful in the world, yet are not known by the world; but are hid and shut up till the resurrectionmorn, when it shall appear what they really are, for at present it does not. (4.) It is compared to a garden inclosed, or locked and barred; for so the word properly signifies, because it is not pervious to every one, neither ought it to be; every one has not a right to enter there, it should remain inclosed, bolted and barred, to all but those who believe in Christ; none ought to walk here but those who come in at the right door, Christ Jesus and every one that climbs up, and gets into this garden any other way, is reckoned by Christ as a thief and a robber. (5.) It is said to be a garden inclosed or locked up, because it is only for Christ’s use; therefore, in verse 16 she desires him to come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruit:’ for this garden is only, his, and the fruits of it for his use alone: in chapter <220501> 5:1 agreeable to her request, he tells her, that he was come into his garden, had gathered the fruits of it, and had eat; it being his sole property, which others had no right unto, he keeps it inclosed, locked and bolted. The.allusion perhaps is to a garden near Jerusalem, which Adrichomius calls hortus regius, the king’s garden, which was shut up, and was only for his use and pleasure; which is much more likely than what Mr Maundrei relates f4 , that at a little distance from Bethlehem, are pools of water; and below those runs a narrow, rocky valley, inclosed on both sides with high mountains; which the friars will have to be the inclosed garden alluded to.

    Secondary, He says that she is ‘a spring shut up, and a fountain sealed:’ I put these two together, because they seem to intend much one and the same thing; though perhaps the one may be more strongly expressive of the church’s fullness and excellency than the other; a fountain may intimate a larger quantity of water than a spring, and sealing signify a stronger security than bare shutting; but are both designed to inform us, that Christ’s garden was well watered, and that there is, no danger of the herbs, flowers, and plants withering and perishing.

    The Septuagint render the first of these expressions as before, kh~pov kekleisme>nov , ‘a garden inclosed, or shut up;’ and so do the Vulgate Latin and Tigurine versions, reading ˆn for ln ; Cocceius translates, ‘a heap locked up;’ and thinks the church is compared to a heap of spices or fruits, which are locked up in a private place, that they may not be spoiled nor stolen away from the owner: Christ’s church congregated together is a heap, but not a confused one; it is like an heap of spice or fruit laid in order; nor is it a heap of any thing, but of sweet-smelling spices and pleasant fruits, such as are mentioned in verses 13,14 to which add also, it is an heap that is valued and cared for, and therefore kept up safe under lock and key. The other version of ‘a spring shut up,’ is more usually received and acknowledged, both by Jewish and Christian Expositors, which also our Translators follow. Now the church is said to be a spring and fountain from whence waters flow, to water all the plants in Christ’s garden; which are either, 1. The graces of the Spirit, which are in her as ‘a well, and rivers of living water, springing up unto eternal life,’ John 4:14. and 7:38,39 and are called waters, because they are of a fructifying and reviving nature; the plants in Christ’s garden being watered with these, revive and lift up their heads, become green, flourishing and fruitful; the souls of God’s children drinking them in, and being filled with them, become like a watered garden, whose springs fail not. Or else, 2. The doctrines of the gospel: the gospel is thought to be the fountain, spoken of in Joel 3:18 which should ‘come forth of the house of the Lord, and water the valley of Shittim:’ it is with its gracious truths that the faithful ministers of the gospel water Christ’s garden; the spirit of grace does it efficaciously, they do it ministerially; Paul plants, and Apollos waters, but God gives the increase; the doctrines of grace oftentimes flow in the ministry of the word, like floods of water upon the dry and parched ground, which soften, moisten, and make it fruitful; souls are refreshed, grow, and flourish thereby; their graces are revived, quickened and drawn forth into exercise, and every thing looks gay and beautiful, as in a fruitful and pleasant garden. Now we are not to suppose that the church is so properly this spring or fountain, as Christ and his Spirit are; she has not an indeficient supply in herself, she receives all from another; but because of the abundance of grace, and the means of it, which Christ is pleased to grant unto his church, therefore he calls her a spring and fountain; though she has grace enough to ascribe all the glory to him, and own him to be the alone spring and fountain from whence she is supplied, as in verse 15 will be made more manifestly to appear. Moreover, the church is said to be ‘a spring shut up, a fountain sealed;’ springs and wells of water being highly esteemed, and much valued in those hot countries, were highly preserved; they used to roll a large stone at the mouth of them, and, for farther security, seal it; as that stone was which was laid at the month of the lions den, in which Daniel was cast; and that at the sepulcher in which Christ was buried: now these fountains were shut up and sealed, not only that the waters might not be bemudded by beasts, but also that they might not be converted to the use of others; thus it is reported, that, among the Persians f6 , were such fountains that only the king and his eldest son might drink of; it being a capital punishment for any others to do so: and perhaps Solomon might have such a spring and fountain in his garden, which was shut up and sealed, and kept for his own private use, to which the allusion is here made; either at Jerusalem, or at Ethan, where he had a pleasure-house; which, for the delicate gardens, walks and fountains, and the fruitfulness of the place, he took great delight in f7 : and near the pools at some distance from Bethlehem, supposed to be his, is a fountain, which the friars will have to be the sealed fountain, here alluded to; and to confirm which, they pretend a tradition, that Solomon shut up these springs, and kept the door of them sealed with his signet, to preserve the waters for his own drinking: and Mr Maundrel f8 , who saw them, says, it was not difficult to secure them; they rising under ground, and having no avenue to them, but by a little hole, like to the mouth of a narrow well. And if we apply this to the doctrine of the gospel, it intends, 1. The secrecy and hiddenness of them to the men of the world; ‘for if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, whom the god of this world hath blinded,’ says the apostle, in 2 Corinthians 4:3,4 it is an hidden gospel to some, a book sealed both to the learned and unlearned, who are in a carnal and unconverted state: from many it is hidden, as to the external ministry of it; and to others it remains a secret, in the midst of the clearest light, and most powerful ministrations of it; it is shut up in parables, and appears to be nothing else but dark sayings to a mere natural man. 2. That they are peculiarly intended and designed for the elect of God: it is for their sakes he has sent it into the world; and for their sakes he will continue to keep it there, maugre all opposition, until every one of them are called by powerful and efficacious grace; ‘I endure all things,’ says the apostle, 2 Timothy 2:10, ‘for the elects sake, that they may also obtain the salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory;’ that is, I preach the gospel: and in doing it, undergo all the sufferings I do, purely upon their account; that salvation may be brought unto them, and they brought at last into the eternal possession of it: and as it is sent into, and continued in the world for their sakes, so it is only blessed to them for conversion and consolation: though the gospel is preached to others, as well as to them, yet it does not Become profitable to them, because it is not mixed with faith by them; for whilst it is the ‘savor of life unto life’ to some, it is the ‘savor of death unto death’ to others; and though these waters of gospeldoctrines flow to, and fall upon others; yet it is but like water that falls upon a rock, that quickly glides away, and makes no impression; and not like streams of water which run about the plants, and soak to the very root.

    The elect of God are only savingly converted, refreshed, and comforted by gospel-doctrines; they are peculiarly designed for them, and eminently blessed to them; they are only for their use, and are to them ‘a spring shut up, and a fountain sealed.’

    And if we apply it to the grace of the Spirit, it denotes, 1. That it is hidden, unknown, and is not communicated to any but to the elect of God: the natural man knows not the things of the Spirit, namely, the grace of the Spirit in regeneration and effectual vocation; these things are mysteries to him; he is a stranger to them, and unacquainted with them; they are only communicated to, and wrought in those to whom God would make known the exceeding riches of his grace: thus things are said to be shut and sealed up, which are kept secret and hidden, and are not conveyed to the knowledge of persons, as in Esther 8:16; Daniel 12:4-9. 2. That it is safe and secure: the grace of God’s people is shut up and scaled; it can never be taken away from them; their life, and all their grace, and the fullness of it, ‘are hid with Christ in God’; and what is given forth unto them, and wrought in them, is an immortal seed and that good part which cannot be taken away. 3. It may intend the confirmation of it to the saints; so things are said to be sealed, when they are ratified, confirmed and made sure; grace and glory are both so to the saints; the Spirit is the author of their grace, and the earnest and pledge of their glory, by whom they are ‘sealed unto the day of redemption.’ 4. It may signify Christ’s special property in his church, and her inviolable chastity to him; and this I take to be the most proper sense of all these expressions; she is ‘a garden inclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed;’ she is Christ’s garden and none but his; Christ’s spring and fountain, to which none has a right but himself; she is his spouse and bride, and no other’s; and being espoused unto him, as a chaste virgin, by mighty grace is kept so. The Jewish writers generally understand it of the modesty and chastity of the daughters of Israel; and this sense seems to be abundantly confirmed from Proverbs 5:15-18. ‘Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well,’ etc. Let thy fountain be blessed and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.

    VERSE 13,14.

    Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits, camphire with spikenard. Spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices.

    CHRIST having compared his church to a garden, and observed that it was well watered, having in it a spring and fountain; he proceeds to shew the fruitfulness of it, that it abounded with the choicest trees, the most pleasant fruits, and the chief of spices. In explaining these words, it will be proper, I. To inquire what are intended by the church’s plants.

    II. Why these plants are said to be ‘an orchard of pomegranates.’

    III. Take notice of the several trees, fruits, and spices here mentioned, and what may be meant by them.

    I. Who are meant by the church’s plants. The Targum and Jarchi expound it of the young men in Israel; and it is nor. unusual in scripture to call children plants; see <19C803> Psalm 128:3 and <19E412> 144:12, therefore, by her plants, may be intended the members of the church, her children, young converts, believers in Christ, who are ‘planted in the house of the Lord, and flourish in the courts of our God:’ these are not mere education plants, who spring up in churches, and join themselves to them, because their parents did; and espouse religion, because they were brought up in it: these are not mere outward profession-plants, who have a name to live, and are dead; have lamps, but no oil in their lamps; and have a form of godliness, fruit but deny the power thereof, such plants as these are fruitless ones; they are like the barren fig-tree, from which three years successively fruit was sought, but none found; if ever there was any appearance of fruit on them, it never came to any thing, but withered away; and whatsoever fruit they do bring forth, it is to themselves, and not to God; like Israel of whom it is said, Hosea 10:1 that he is ‘an empty vine, and brings forth fruit, to himself:’ and the reason of this is, because they have not the root of the matter in them; nor are they engrafted into, and rooted in Christ Jesus; and therefore are like the stony ground-hearers, who heard and received the word with joy, but it did not last long, because they had no root in themselves; and such being none of the Father’s planting, shall be plucked up, according to what Christ says, Matthew 15:13.

    Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up;’ and shall be bundled together, as fit fuel for the fire, like the unfruitful and withered branches, or like the tares in the end of the world: but these plants in the text, are such who, 1. Are by divine grace transplanted from the wilderness of the world, they are Christ’s vines, which he brings out of Egypt; his fir and myrtle trees, which he causes to spring up instead of briars and thorns; these he either takes out of the wilderness, or else makes it a fruitful garden by planting them there; he calls them out of the world, and translates them into his own kingdom, whereby he enlarges his church, and of a garden makes it an orchard. 2. Who have the grace of the Spirit planted in their hearts; who works in them every sort of grace, which he raises, cherishes, and at last brings to perfection. 3. Who are engrafted into Christ Jesus: by nature they belong to, and grow upon the wild olive: but are by grace broken off from that, and are engrafted into the true olive, Christ Jesus; they are planted into the likeness of his death, and into the likeness of his resurrection, and so receive the benefits of both; they abide in him, as the branch in the vine, and, receiving sap and nourishment from him, become fruitful souls. 4. They are such who have received the ingrafted word; it has been planted in them, and powerfully impressed upon them; they have received it in the love of it; it has effectually wrought in them, and brought forth fruit in them from the very day they heard and received it. 5. Such as these who are transplanted from the wilderness of the world, and are planted in Christ, and have had his word and grace planted in their souls, have a right to be planted ministerially in his church; and being planted there, will grow and flourish. Now such plants as these are choice and select ones; they are plants of renown, and pleasant ones to God and Christ; they are planted in a fruitful soil, and by rivers of water, therefore their leaf is always green; neither do they cease from yielding fruit; hence they shall never be plucked up; neither sin, nor Satan, nor the world can do it; and Christ Jesus never will; for they are his Father’s planting, in whom he is, and will be glorified, and then is he so when they bring forth much fruit.

    II. These plants are said to be an orchard, or like unto an orchard of pomegranates. The word for plants, is by the Cabalistic doctors f10 , rendered waterings or rivulets; which, being derived, make her a garden of pomegranates, as full as an orchard is of them: and it may be rendered gardens f11 ; particular churches, which make an orchard, or are like one; even a paradise, .as the word is rendered by the Septuagint, and in other versions f12 ; it is generally thought to be a Persiac word; see Nehemiah 2:8. but Hillerus derives it from drp to separate; it being a garden separate and inclosed, as before one like Eden’s garden, exceeding pleasant and delightful; and not like an orchard of any sort of trees, but of pomegranates; of which there were plenty in the land of Canaan; called ‘a land of pomegranates,’ Deuteronomy 8:8 many places in it had their names from thence, Joshua 15:32 and 19:13 and 21:24. And the church f14 , with her plants, may be called so, in allusion to the garden of Eden, the earthly paradise of our first parents; where the ‘Lord God made to grow every tree that was pleasant to the sight, and good for food;’ in the midst of it stood the tree of life, and out of it went a river to water all the garden, and was on all accounts exceeding pleasant and delightful: in Christ’s garden, the church, are planted all manner of trees of righteousness, which are both pleasant and profitable; God, stands the tree of life, in the midst of this paradise of Christ Jesus; but with this difference from the tree of life in Eden’s garden; for Adam might not put forth his hand, and take of that; but of this, whosoever will, may pluck and eat, and happy is every one that does so: here runs a river of boundless love and grace, the streams whereof water and refresh all the plants herein; and upon all accounts is an Eden of pleasure, a paradise which Christ has made for his own pleasure and delight F15 , and for that reason bears this name: but these plants are not only said to be an orchard, but an orchard or paradise of pomegranates, that is, in which pomegranates grew in great plenty. The church, like the land of Canaan, is a land or orchard of pomegranates; and the church’s plants, believers in Christ, who are planted and grow there, may be compared to pomegranates, that is, not to the fruit and shell, as in verse 3 but to the trees,1. Because there are various sorts of them f16 , which bear fruit differing from each other; which may denote the difference there is in saints, by reason of their gifts and graces; they have grace and gifts differing from each other; one has more grace and larger gifts than other’s have; they are not all of an equal size and bigness; they have not all a like measure of the Spirit, and yet they are all pomegranates, trees of righteousness, of the right planting. 2. Pomegranate-trees in some countries are very large; and so they were in the land of Canaan, as appears from 1 Samuel 14:2 and perhaps may here denote such who excel others in gifts and grace; who are officers in churches, and are set over others in and by the Lord; as by the other trees, fruits and spices, after mentioned, may be intended lesser saints, who are of a lower form in the church of Christ. 3. They are very fruitful trees: the fruit they bear, as it is full of a delightful juice, so of grains or kernels; which may denote the saints being full of grace, and all the fruits of righteousness and good works, as the Targum and Jarchi observe here. 4. They grow up straight and upright, and so denote the saints uprightness, both in heart and life; they are men of upright hearts, and of upright conversations; are looking upwards to, and growing up into their head, Christ Jesus. 5. They do not grow any where, in any soil; the wilderness, through which the Israelites traveled, could not furnish them with any, though the land of Canaan could when they came thither: these plants or trees of righteousness, do not grow any where; they are not to be found every where; they grow in Christ’s garden; in his house they are planted, and in his courts they flourish.

    III. Here are several other trees, fruits and spices, which are said to be in this garden or orchard; for it is added, with all pleasant fruits; that is, whatsoever is valuable, precious, and desirable, such as those after mentioned; as camphire with spikenard; both these have been observed in chapter 1:12,14. but are here mentioned in the plural number, cypresses, or cyprusses with nards f17 ; the camphire, or cypress, on the account of its fruits or berries; and the spikenard, because there are various sorts of it, as nardus Italica, nardus Celtica, and nardus Indica, which last is the right spikenard; and it may be, because the leaves which grow out of the root, are like a bunch of ears of corn: saffron; it is no where else mentioned in scripture; we call it by this name from the Arabic, zaffran; it is called so on account of its yellow and golden color; its nature and usefulness are well known among us; according to Schindler f18 , it seems to have been read carcos, the same with crocus, which has its name from Corycus f19 , a mountain in Cilisia; so Pliny, lib, 21. c. 6. where it grew, and was the best; it is properly joined with spikenard, since itself is a spice, and is called spica Cilissa f20 ; it bears a blue flower, in the midst of which are three stylets, or little threads, of a fine red color, which are what is called saffron: calamus and cinnamon; both these were ingredients in the holy anointing oil, Exodus 30:23, both grow an India, and in Arabia f21 , and in Ethiopia; calamus is the sweet cane, mentioned in Isaiah 43:24, it grows in India and Arabia; and is said to scent the air, where and while it is growing, with a fragrant smell; and cinnamon is the middlemost bark of a tree, that grows in Ceylon in the East Indies; it is mentioned in Proverbs 7:17, as the harlot’s perfume, and in Revelation 18:13, as part of the wares or merchandise of the whore of Babylon: some say f22 , what we call cinnamon is the cassia of the ancients; Herolotus fabulously relates, what, from the Phoenicians, is called cinnamon, are stalks or barks, which the Arabs say, are found in the nests of certain birds. ‘With all trees of frankincense, myrrh;’ frankincense chiefly grew in one of the Arabias, hence called thurisera; and is said to come out of Syria; it was used in the holy perfume, as was myrrh in the anointing oil, Exodus 30:23-34 which is a gum, from a shrub in Arabia, of a bitter taste, but fragrant; and with both these the church is said to be perfumed, chapter 3:6 and aloes; either the ling-aloes, so the Targum here, of which mention is made in Numbers 24:6. called agallocbium, an aromatic plant, which grows in India and Arabia, and is of a sweet odor, as Isidore says; or the herb aloes, which is of a bitter taste, but of a sweet smell, and with which garments were perfumed, Psalm 45:8; Proverbs 7:17 together with all chief spices, or precious ones; Solomon’s gardens might be furnished with these from Arabia Felix, where all sorts of spices grew, hence called aromatifera, the spice country: and be they what they will, they are all to be found in Christ’s garden, or what is answerable to them. Now by these may be meant, the several graces of the Spirit, which are to be found in all those who are plants or members in Christ’s church; which are called by these names, and compared to these fruits, herbs, and spices,1. Because the graces of the Spirit are many, and therefore many herbs and spices are mentioned; see Galatians 5:22. 2. They are various, of different sorts; for as it makes for the pleasantness of a garden or orchard to have many trees, plants, herbs, and flowers, so to have them of different sorts; for if there were never so many, and all of one sort, it would not be so delightful: the church of Christ, and believers in Christ, as they have many, so they have various graces; there are faith, hope, love, etc. faith is a grace differing from hope, and hope differs from faith, and love from them both. 3. They are rare and excellent: the herbs and spices here mentioned, such as spikenard, safiron, camphire, cinnamon, etc. are not to be found everywhere; they do not grow in every garden; they are very rarely to be met with: the graces of the Spirit do not grow any where, in any heart; there are but few that have them; they are exceeding rare, valuable and precious. 4. These herbs and spices are all of them of a sweet smell: and so are the graces of the Spirit to Christ; they are a sweet perfume to him; the smell of these ointments is preferred by him to all spices, in verse 10. 5. Some of these herbs and plants cheer the heart, and revive the spirits, as saffron, cinnamon, and camphire: the Spirit of God, in his operations of grace, and in exciting and drawing forth grace into exercise, wonderfully cheats our hearts, revives our spirits, and keeps us from fainting and swooning fits: in the multitude of our thoughts within us, his comforts delight our souls. 6. Some of them preserve from putrefaction, as myrrh and aloes; and therefore were used in embalming dead bodies, John 19:39 the grace of the Spirit is of such a nature; it is by this our dead souls are quickened, by this they are kept in life, and are preserved from putrifying and rotting in sin. 7. Some of them are green in winter-time; as saffron and the aloe: grace is always dive, and ever green, even in winter-storms and tempests, though it does not always appear so to us; it is an immortal seed which never dies. 8. Some of these grow up higher and taller than others; the calamus, f30 cinnamon, myrrh, and ethers, grow up taller than the spikenard and saffron: now these may intend the graces of faith, hope, and love, which rise upwards in their actings on the Lord Jesus Christ; and the latter, the graces of humility, meekness, lowliness of mind, etc. 9. All these emit the most fragrant odor, when they are either cut, bruised, or burnt; so do the graces of the Spirit, when they are exercised and tried in the furnace of affliction,10. They are all, one way or another, more or less medicinal, and are healthful to the bodies of men; and so are the graces of the Spirit to the souls of men. Solomon understood the nature of all sorts of herbs and plants, and no doubt these are aptly chosen to set forth the graces of the Spirit by; and had we but his wisdom, we should know better how to apply them.

    VERSE 15. A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. CHRIST having commended his church as a well watered garden, and declared her fruitfulness; she breaks forth in these words, and ascribes it all to him, saying, ‘O fountain of gardens, and well of living waters,’ etc. as the words are rendered by some: though others take them to be the words of Christ; but rather are the church’s. It is true, as if she should say, I am a garden, and a garden inclosed by thy sovereign grace, where the streams and flows of thy grace run and water all my plants, and make them so fruitful as they are: but I am not the spring, the fountain from whence they flow it is thou who art the fountain of gardens, from whence I am supplied, and am put into, and kept in the flourishing condition I am; it is not owing to myself, but it is by thy grace I am what I am; and therefore I will ascribe all the glory to thee.

    So that the church here acknowledges Christ, I. To be ‘a fountain of gardens’.

    II. ‘A well of living waters.’ And, III. His grace to be like ‘streams from Lebanon.’ There seems to be a respect to several places called by these names: there was one called ‘the Fountain of Gardens,’ which flowed from Lebanon, six miles from Tripoli, and watered all the gardens about, whence it had its name, and all the country that lay between those two places: and there was another, called ‘the Well of living Waters,’ a little mile to the south of Tyre; it had four fountains, from whence were cut various aqueducts and rivulets, which watered all the plain of Tyre, and all its gardens; which fountains were little more than a bow’s cast from the main sea; and in which space six mill, were employed: and there is a rupture in mount Lebanon, as Mr. Maundrel says, which runs up in seven hours traveling; and which on both sides is steep and high, and clothed with fragrant greens from top to bottom; and every where refreshed with fountains, failing down from the rocks, in pleasant cascades, the ingenious work of nature: and Rauwolff, who was on this mountain in 1575, relates; ‘We came, says he, into pleasant groves, by delightful rivulets that arose from springs, that made so sweet a noise as to be admired by king Solomon,’ Song of Solomon 4:15.

    I. She acknowledges him to be ‘a fountain of gardens.’ By gardens may be intended, either particular believers, whose souls are made like watered gardens, whose springs fail not; or rather, particular churches: Christ has mere gardens than one; every particular church is a garden; such were the churches at Rome, Corinth, Colosse, Philippi, Thessalonica, and the seven churches of Asia; but though there have been, and still are many gardens, yet there is but one fountain, from whence they are supplied, and by which they are all watered, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ, as the church here owns; in him all fullness of grace dwells, and from thence believers ‘receive grace for grace;’ he is the fountain from whence it all flows, all justifying grace flows from this fountain; in him alone is our justifying righteousness before God; by him are all the elect justified, and that from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses; in doing which abundance of grace is displayed, both in bringing it in and applying it to the ungodly sinner; all which grace flows from this fountain: all sanctifying grace flows from hence; a holy nature, as well as a justifying righteousness, we have from Christ; he is both our sanctification and our righteousness; to him we must look for, and from him we must receive the one as well as the other: all the streams of pardoning grace take their rise from hence; Christ shed his blood to obtain the pardon of sin, and he has obtained it thereby for all his people; so that now as forgiveness of sin is according to the riches of God’s grace, it is also upon the foot of justice, being founded upon redemption through the blood of Jesus; hence God’s justice and faithfulness are concerned in the pardon of sin, as well as his grace and mercy displayed; Christ is ‘the fountain opened,’ to wash in ‘for sin and for uncleanness;’ it is his blood alone which ‘cleanseth from all sin’ whatever:

    He is the fountain of all the blessings and promises of the everlasting covenant; of all that light and life that we are made partakers of; of all that strength and wisdom that are given forth to us, to act for him in our several stations of life; and of all that joy, comfort, and peace in believing, which our souls are at any times possessed of: He is the fountain of all fructifying and persevering grace, by which the plants in his garden become fruitful, and continue to do so: in short, he is the fountain from whence all his churches are supplied not only with grace, but with the gifts of the Spirit; he is ascended on high, ‘that he might fill all things;’ he is filled himself as man and mediator, with the Spirit without measure; he has received ‘the promise of the Father,’ and plentifully sheds it abroad among his people; he fills his churches with members and officers, and all these with suitable gifts and graces for their respective places; all comes from this ‘fountain of gardens.’

    II. She declares him to be ‘a well of living water:’ we read, in Isaiah 12:3 of wells of salvation, in the plural number, which intend the same as here; and are so called to denote the fullness, completeness, and excellency of salvation in Christ: Christ is a well that is, 1. Large and deep; like that which Isaac called Rehoboth, either from the largeness of it, or the liberty he had then obtained in enjoying it; or like Jacob’s well, which was very deep, at which Christ met the woman of Samaria: the fullness of grace in Christ has its heights and depths, its lengths and breadths; it is bottomless and unfathomable, it is immeasurable and incomprehensible. 2. Christ is a full well: we read, 2 Peter 2:17 of some that are wells without water; but such an one is not Christ; he is a full welt, and not full of any thing, of any sort of water, but of living water; he is fur of grace and truth,3. This well was dug by, and filled alone with sovereign grace; it pleased the Father; it was an act of his sovereign grace, that Christ should be the mediator, and that all fullness of grace should dwell in him as such; when he treasured up in him before the world began: the Lord, says Wisdom, Proverbs 8:22. possessed me; with what? with all fullness of grace; and when did he do this? in the beginning of his way, before his works of old; O boundless, sovereign grace! 4. Faith is the grace with which we draw from hence: it may indeed be said to us, what the woman of Samaria said to Christ, John 4:11. ‘Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep:’ we have nothing of our own to draw with; but Christ, who has opened our eyes, as the Lord did Hagar’s, to behold himself, the well of living waters, gives us faith, whereby we draw out of the wells of salvation, and receive from this overflowing fountain grace for grace. 5. The waters we draw from hence are living ones; such Christ told the woman of Samaria he could, as undoubtedly he afterwards did give unto her, even living water. Christ is a well, and a well full of living waters; which are so called, (1.) Because grace given forth, from Christ’s fullness to dead sinners, makes them alive; these waters are like the waters of the sanctuary, in Ezekiel’s vision; which, wherever they come, not only keep alive those that are so, but quicken such who are dead in trespasses and sins, and in this respect excel them: we are told, Proverbs 10:11 that the mouth of a righteous man is a well of life; certainly Christ’s mouth is so, when he says to sinners, whilst in their blood, live; his grace may then be said to be living water. (2.) Grace given forth from Christ’s fullness, revives and quickens saints when dull, lifeless and fainting; it comforts their hearts, and makes them cheerful, lively and active. (3.) Grace maintains and supports life in believers: we have our life alone from Christ; he is the author of it, and with him it is hid, secured, and preserved; it is by his mighty grace that our souls are upheld in it; from his fullness we have all the communications of it; and because he lives, therefore we do, and shall live also. (4.) It is this grace of Christ’s that gives saints a right to, prepares them for, and will end in eternal life; justifying grace gives them a right to eternal life; sanctifying grace makes them meet for it, which is in them ‘a well of water springing up into everlasting life,’ John 4:14. (5.) These are called living waters, because they are ever running f37 ; and so opposed to standing waters, which are dried up in the summer season: Christ’s grace is perpetual, everlasting and inexhaustible; like himself, it is ‘the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever;’ the fullness of grace in Christ, and the communications of it, are like those living or ever-running waters, mentioned in Zechariah 14:8. ‘And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them towards the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea; in summer and in winter shall it be;’ that is, at all times and seasons of the year shall these waters flow: the saints before and after the flood, the saints before and under the law; the saints under the Old Testament, and the saints under the New, have all received from this fountain and fullness of grace in Christ; all the grace that angels have, and all that men have or shall have. all comes from hence; and yet it is an everrunning, overflowing, and inexhaustible fullness, And this I take to be the principal reason why it is called ‘living water.’

    III. The church here acknowledges the grace of Christ to be like streams from Lebanon: mount Lebanon gave rise to Eleutherus, etc. and as these took some rivers, as Jordan their rise and streamed from thence, so does grace from Christ, ‘whose countenance is as Lebanon,’ chapter 5:15, who is intended here from this high, goodly, pleasant, fruitful, and fragrant mountain, flow all the streams of divine grace to our souls. Now by this expression are intended, 1. The discoveries and breakings forth of grace to those who are the objects of it: the river of God’s love ran under ground from eternity; so that those who are interested in it, and are the objects of it, know nothing of it, till it breaks forth in effectual vocation; when it comes pouring in unto them, like streams from Lebanon. 2. This expression may denote the rapidity, force, and power of divine grace; as the streams from Lebanon fall with great rapidity: grace comes like a mighty torrent, and carries all before it; throws down the strong holds of Satan, and is a match for the corruption of nature; for when this works, nothing can let; all mountains become a plain; all obstacles and impediments are removed out of the way; and nothing can stand before it, when the exceeding greatness of its power is exerted; it is irresistible, invincible, end always victorious. 3. This phrase maybe expressive of the abundance of grace which flows from Christ: there are aboundings of sin in our nature; but grace, streaming from Christ, abounds overall; where sin abounded, says the apostle, Romans 5:20 ‘grace did much more abound;’ it flows into, and it overflows in a believer’s heart; the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant, uJperepleolarge that fullness which is in Christ! 4. Though this grace flows in abundance to poor sinners, yet it is in measure; grace is in Christ without measure, but in us in measure; it is in him as in a fountain, but is given forth to us in streams; and these streams should lead us to the fountain from whence thor flow; for though we should rejoice in, and adore grace for the streams, yet we should not rest contented, without often going to the fountain itself. 5. The communications of grace are called streams, and said to be as streams from Lebanon, because they are exceeding grateful and delightful to souls; even as streams of water were in those hot countries: the streams which flow in this river of divine grace make glad the city of God; a spring of water to a thirsty traveler in the Arabian deserts, cannot be more welcome and delightful than the discoveries of grace, those streams from Lebanon, are to a believing soul; and therefore Christ is said to be ‘as rivers of water in a dry place, anal as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,’ Isaiah 32:2. 6. It intends the continued supplies of grace to believers: grace is always running, streaming, flowing to them; could rue communications of grace be stopped, were those streams from Lebanon to cease; they would soon be in an empty, miserable, and wretched state and condition; but this ‘river of the water of life is proceeding out of the throne of God and of the lamb;’ it ever did, and so it does still, and ever shall; ‘my God will supply all your need,’ etc. Philippians 4:19. 7. It intimates unto us the freeness of it; it is like the streams from Lebanon; it runs freely; whosoever will, may come and take of this water of lit e freely. The first of these expressions in the text, denotes the fullness of grace in Christ; the second, the perpetuity and inexhaustibleness of it; and this third, the exceeding freeness of it. VERSE 16.

    Former part. Awake, O north wind, and come thou south, blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. — CHRIST having taken notice of the fruitfulness of his garden, the church, in verse 12-14, and she, in verse 15, having acknowledged that it was all owing to himself, who is the fountain of gardens; he, in this verse, that nothing may be wanting to continue and increase the fruitfulness thereof, calls to the north and south winds, the one to awake, and the other to ‘come and blow upon his garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.’

    The reason why I take these words to be the words of Christ, and not of the church, as some, are, 1. Because the language seems best to suit with him; who has created the winds, and gathered them in his fist, and holds them there; who opens his hand and lets them loose, and can and does recall them at his pleasure; Who has his storehouse and magazines of them, and, when he pleases, brings them forth out of his treasures; who, in the days of his flesh, gave a surprising instance of his power over them, in rebuking the wind and sea, and commanding a calm, when the disciples, with others, were in imminent danger; which occasioned the men to say, ‘What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him!’ he can shut up and let loose the winds, when he thinks fit; he has them at his command, and uses them as he pleases; so that it may be truly said of him, what the heathen poet f41 said of his Jove: Protinus AEoliis aquilonem claudit in antris, Emittitque notum ; madidis notus evolat alis. 2. It does not appear so agreeable that the church should petition Christ to let loose the north wind upon her; especially, if by it we understand, as I think we must, some rough dispensation of providence, as afflictions, temptations, etc., which though Christ knows they are wholesome and useful to his people, and he makes them so, and therefore in his wisdom and grace sends them; yet they are not desirable to the saints; they do not pray for them. 3. The person here speaking, claims a right and property in this garden, on which the south wind, is to blow. Now the church is not her own garden, but Christ’s, as she in the following part of the verse acknowledges; therefore it appears to be Christ who here speaks, and says, ‘blow upon my garden.’ Taking them then to be his words, I shall now consider what he says. And, I. He calls to the norm wind to awake, ‘Awake, O north wind.’

    Which some understand as a command, to remove and be gone, and blow no longer upon his garden: in <19A725> Psalm 107:25 we read that God commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind; it is in the Hebrew text, dm[yw ‘and causeth the stormy wind to stand;’ so that the raising of the wind, and continuing it, in that language was called a causing it to stand; and perhaps a recalling it was, as here, called an awaking or raising it up, in order to be gone: and there are some reasons which may be alledged why it may be supposed that it was not the design of Christ, that the north wind should blow, but rather that it should not, 1. Because it was now spring time; ‘the wither was past, the rain was over and gone; the flowers appeared in the earth, the fig-tree put forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes gave a good smell.’ Chapter 2:11-13, and therefore it was time for the north wind to cease blowing. 2. It being a cold and nipping wind, would be hurtful and injurious to the plants in his garden, mentioned in verses 13,14, and therefore it may be supposed that he would not have it blow. 3. The verb yjwph blow, is in the singular number, and seems to be only in construction with the south wind; and therefore is alone ordered to blow, and not the north wind. 4. Winds diametrically opposite to each other f43 , as the north and south be, cannot blow together under one and the same horizon with a continued blast; for if they blow with equal force, they will hinder each other from blowing freely; and if one is more powerful than the other, the weaker will be obliged to join the other, or else subside; though winds contrary may blow together obliquely and sideways; but the more oblique they are, the greater tempest they raise, which cannot be supposed to be Christ’s design here: and now, when he orders the north wind to awake, arise, and be gone, he intends every thing that may be noxious, hurtful, and injurious to his garden. Though others think the meaning of this phrase, ‘Awake, O north wind,’ is, arise, exert thyself, and blow, together with the south wind, upon my garden; and so the Jewish writers think, f44 , that both winds are designed to blow. The north wind, though a cold and nipping wind, yet Pliny says f45 , that it is the most wholesome wind that blows: and the scripture informs us, that though out of the north comes forth the cold; yet also from it proceeds fair weather; Job 37:9-22, and Solomon tells us, that the north-wind drives away rain, Proverbs 25:23. and then by the north wind, as I hinted before, we may understand rough dispensations of providence, as temptations, afflictions, etc. which Christ is pleased to suffer to come upon his people, and which he brings them under, for their good and his glory: and this shews, (1.) That none of these things come upon the saints without Christ’s knowledge, permission, or appointment; there is not a wind blows upon them without his will and order: afflictions do not come out of the dust, nor trouble spring out of the ground, but are sent from heaven to the saints as covenant mercies; no temptation comes upon them, but what is common to man; and Christ takes care that they are not tempted above that they are able to bear, and in his own way and time gives them deliverance from it. (2.) These are all for their good; it is, if need be, they are in heaviness through manifold temptations; all adverse and rough dispensations of providence, all afflictions, work together for their good; they are all in mercy to them, otherwise he that holds the wind in his fist, would not suffer the blustering north wind to blow upon them. (3.) They serve to make the spices flow out; that is, they are useful for the trial, exercise, and increase of grace; tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; that is, tribulation exercises and tries these graces, and makes them to appear more bright and glorious: the manifold temptations the saints are attended with, are suffered to come upon them, ‘that the trial of their faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ,’ 1 Peter 1:6,7.

    II. He calls to the south wind, to come and blow upon his garden. The church is compared to a garden, in verse 12, and why it is so, has been there shewn. Here Christ claims a property in it; and it is his, 1. By choice; he chose this spot of ground, and preferred it to all others, for this purpose and use. 2. By gift; he asked it of his Father, and he gave it to him; ‘thine they were, and thou gavest them me,’ John 17:6. 3. By purchase; he has bought it, and at a clear rate; not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the invaluable price of his own precious blood. 4. By his powerful and efficacious grace, has distinguished and separated it from the wilderness of this world. 5. He uses it as his own; he purchased and set it apart for his own use and recreation, and here delights to walk;’ he is frequently to be found, seen, and heard of here: and this being his own garden, which he himself chose, his Father gave him, which he has purchased with his own blood, distinguished by his grace, and where he delights to take his walks; he therefore calls upon the south wind to blow upon it. And by the south wind, and blowing of it, I apprehend, is intended the Spirit of God, in his powerful operations, and special influences of grace, in and upon the hearts of God’s people; and shall now consider how he may be compared, First, To the wind in general. The Spirit of God bears the same name, and several of the properties thereof are applicable to him. 1. The wind, as our Lord says, John 3:8, bloweth where it listeth; the Spirit of God is a free agent; he works how and where he pleaseth; he acts freely in the first application of grace to a poor sinner; and so he does in all the after actings, operations and influences of it, as well as in the donation of those gifts, which he bestows upon men for different purposes; for though there ‘are diversities of gifts, differences of administrations, and diversities of operations; yet all these worketh that one and the self-same spirit; dividing to every one severally as he will,’ 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. 2. The wind blows imperceptibly; thou hearest, as Christ says in the abovementioned place, ‘the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; and so is every one that is born of the Spirit:’ the workings of the Spirit of God in regeneration are invisible and imperceptible to the natural man; he can no more discern the Spirit’s grace, than he can see the wind when it blows; he can no more tell from whence this grace comes, and how it is acted, than he can point at the treasures of wind, and tell from whence they take their rise, and why they blow sometimes one way and sometimes another; why sometimes only in a gentle breeze, and at other times rise to violent storms; why sometimes their drive on in a direct line, and at other times have a circular motion: and as he cannot account for these things, no more can he for the operations of the Spirit; for he neither knows his person nor his grace. 3. It blows powerfully and irresistibly; there is no stopping of it; it blows when, where, and how it listeth, for any thing that man can do; none but he who has created the winds, and gathered them in his fist, can rule them at pleasure; and, when he lets them loose, and gives them a command, they carry all before them; throw down houses, pluck up trees by the roots, rend the mountains, and break the rocks in pieces; for which reason the Spirit of God is compared to ‘a mighty rushing wind,’ Acts 2:2, which filled the house in which the disciples were, on the day of Pentecost, and filled them with extraordinary gifts: the Spirit of God, in his mighty operations of grace upon a sinner’s heart, carries all before him; there is no withstanding his grace and power; he throws down Satan’s strong holds, and demolishes the fortifications of sin; all mountains become a plain before him; and the whole posse of hell, and the corruption of a man’s heart, are not a match for him; for when he works, none can let: he has conquered the hearts of the vilest and most notorious sinners; such as a Manasseh, a Mary Magdalene, and a persecuting Saul; there is no resisting his grace and the power of it, nor holding of his almighty arm. 4. The wind is of a purifying nature, therefore some call it nature’s fan; it clears the air of infectious and noxious vapors; we are scarce sensible how much our health is owing to it; for without this, the air would soon be stagnated, and quickly destroy the life both of man and beast: the Spirit of God purifies our hearts by faith; width he does by leading it to the blood of Jesus, which cleanseth from all sin; and by sprinkling it upon our consciences, whereby they are purged from dead works; these dead weights and heavy clogs, which hinder us in serving the living God. 5. It is of a piercing and searching nature; it penetrates into every hole and cranny: the Spirit of God searches, not only the deep things of God, but the deep things of man also; what is said, Proverbs 20:27, of the spirit of man, may in a higher sense be said of the Spirit of God, that it is ‘the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly; it penetrates into the utmost recesses of a man’s heart, and discovers those hidden swarms of corruption, which before lay indiscernible; it pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is both a discerner and revealer of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 6. It is of a cooling nature; so is the Spirit of God, in his operations of grace upon a sinner’s heart; which is often enflamed with wrath, through the workings of a fiery law, and the injections of Satan’s fiery darts; the heat of which he allays, by acting as comforter, and as the spirit of promise, bringing home and applying to the conscience of the distressed sinner, the exceeding great and precious promises of the gospel, which cool and refresh, by removing wrath and terror from thence.

    Secondly, He may be compared to the south-wind in particular, 1. Because it blows warmly, brings heat with it, breaks up frosts, and thaws the ice; ‘when ye see the south-wind blow,’ says Christ, Luke 12:55, ‘ye say there will be heat, and it cometh to pass:’ so the Spirit of God brings heat along with him to the cold heart of a sinner, ‘dead an trespasses and sins;’ and by the mighty influence of his grace, thaws and melts his hard and frozen soul; and with his soul-warming gales, and comfortable discoveries of love, warms, enlivens, comforts and refreshes the saint, when in a cold lifeless and uncomfortable frame. 2. It brings serenity along with it: it is not a blustering and tempestuous wind, as the north-wind is; but is still, gentle and quiet; blows softly as Elihu said to Job 37:17. ‘Dost thou know how thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by the south-wind? the Spirit of God brings peace unto, and commands quietness in the heart of a distressed sinner, where were nothing before but storms and tempests: the fruit of the Spirit is peace, a conscience peace, ‘a peace that passeth all understanding;’ which he works in the sinner’s heart, by leading him to the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ. 3. It is very fructifying; by its warmth, together with the sun, it loosens the trees, and causes the sap to flow, which was congealed by the cold, and clothes them with leaves, flowers and fruit: the Spirit of God, by his mighty grace and special influence, makes souls fruitful in every good word and work. 4. The south-wind usually brings rain, hence it is called nubilus auster ; F46 and therefore the poet represents it as flying, cum madidis alis , with wet and moistened wings. Pliny F47 says, it produces greater flood; than others do; which suits well with Junius’s version, who renders the next clause thus, ‘let the waters flow through the spices thereof:’ F48 the Spirit of God blows, and causes the floods of grace to rise; which, running about the several plants in the garden, makes them fruitful.

    Thirdly, According to the mind of some Expositors F49 , the Spirit of God is intended by both winds, the north and south; and that, 1. On the account of his different operations; for which reason we read of ‘ the seven spirits’ of God, Revelation 1:4, not that there are so many distinct spirits personally existing; but by them are intended the variety and perfection of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit of God, who works them in, and bestows them on whom he will. 2. If the Spirit is intended by both winds, it may be expressive of the usual order of the Spirit in his operations: he is first as the north-wind, sharp and knipping: and then as the south-wind, warm and refreshing; he first acts the part of a convincer, and then that of a comforter; he first kills, and then makes alive; wounds, and than he heals; he humbles souls, and makes them low in their own eyes, and then exalts them: he brings them ‘into the wilderness,’ and then ‘speaks comfortably to them.’ 3. It may shew that Christ’s garden stands in need of both winds: that the saints sometimes need the Spirit as a reprover, to bring them to a sense of themselves; as well as a comforter, to relieve them under their distresses: the cold and nipping north-wind, as well as the warm and comfortable south-wind. 4. Both winds are called upon, and that to cause the spices to flow out, that the odor of them may be spread far and near, that it might be carried from pole to pole, even all the world over. Now when Christ is here represented, saying to the Spirit, ‘come and blow upon my garden;’ it must be understood of him as mediator, calling unto, and as it were demanding of the Spirit to do his work assigned him in the church which does not suppose any inferiority in the Spirit to Christ for all the three persons having jointly agreed in the everlasting council and covenant of peace, to take their several distinct parts in man’s salvation; and the Father having distinguished this spot of ground, this garden, by his grace; and Christ having purchased it by his blood; and the Spirit having planted it with precious plants, herbs and spices; Christ calls upon him, by virtue of this former agreement, to do the remaining part of his work; see John 14:16. and 16:7, to blow upon his garden, that it may grow and flourish, and the sweet smell of these spices be carried far and near. Which brings me to consider, III. The reason why he would have the south-wind blow upon his garden; and that is, ‘that the spices may flow out;’ might emit a fragrant smell: though Virgil represents the south-wind as hurtful to flowers, so it might be in Italy, where it dried them up, as Severius on the place observes; and yet be useful to them in Palestine, where it blew from the sea, by which the south is sometimes called, <19A703> Psalm 107:3. Now by spices, we must understand the graces of believers; which, like spices, are rare, excellent, precious, sweet and odorous, especially to Christ Jesus, by whom they are preferred to all spices: and the ‘flowing out’ of them intend, either, 1. The exercise of them: grace is not always in exercise, but is like flowers, shut up; or like plants, herbs and fruits, which seem to be withering; or like coals covered with ashes, that want to be ‘stirred up’ or blown upon, as in 2 Timothy 1:6, but this believers are not capable of doing themselves; for they can no more exercise grace, than they can work it of themselves:

    Christ knew full well, that this is the Spirit’s work; therefore he calls upon him to blow, and thereby open these flowers, revive these plants, and blow off the ashes from these coals, and draw forth grace into exercise upon himself, the proper object of it. Or, 2. The evidence and shewing forth of it to others: Christ would not only have grace in the hearts of his people, but would have it exert and shew itself in the life and conversation; he would have these ‘lights shine before men,’ and this grace appear, not only to himself but to others. Or, 3. The increase of grace: that these herbs and plants might be fruitful, the spices smell, and the whole garden be in a flourishing condition; in short, that the Spirit would be ripening and bringing to maturity grace in the souls of believers, and finish what he had begun there. Or else, 4. The diffusive odor of them: that their, graces might emit such a sweet odor, both to himself and others, as a garden does, when, after a delightful shower of rain, the wind gently blows upon it. Which request, or rather demand of his, no doubt was answered, as appears from the following words. VERSE 16. Latter part Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.

    THE north-wind being awaked, and the south-wind having blown upon Christ’s garden, the church, according to his order, the spices did flow out; her graces were stirred up, and begin now to exercise themselves; which causes her, before he had well done speaking, and made a stop, to break forth in these words, and earnestly desire his presence and company in his garden; so that in this one verse we have both Christ and his church speaking. In these words are to be considered, I. A title or character she gives him; ‘my beloved.’

    II. A request or invitation she makes him; to ‘come into his garden.’

    III. Her end in it; to ‘eat his pleasant fruits.’

    I. Here is a title or character which she gives him, ‘my beloved;’ which, as it comes from her mouth, is expressive, 1. Of her love to him: he wag the object of her love, him whom her soul loved; and indeed how could she do otherwise than love so lovely a person, one who loved her so dearly, and had given such undeniable demonstrations of it? love, we usually say, begets love; and no wonder that Christ’s love should beget love in her, when we consider his person, the nature of his love, and how undeserving she was of it. 2. Of her faith, as to her interest in him; she could point him out, and distinguish him from all others, and had strength of faith enough, to claim him as hers; faith and love go together, they are twins; they are born together in a regenerate soul, and grow up together; when one is in exercise, usually the other is also; for ‘faith works by love.’ 3. She makes use of this title as an argument to obtain her request, or make her invitations the more forcible: she who in this manner earnestly desires that he would come into his garden, was one who dearly loved him, stood nearly related to him, and had an interest both in his person and affections: arguments taken by the saints from their union and relation to Christ, and their interest in him, have very great influence upon him, and are not disregarded by him: David knew this, and therefore uses this way of speaking at the throne of grace, ‘I am thine’, says he, <19B994> Psalm 119:94, ‘save me.’

    II. Here is a request made, or an invitation given, by the church to Christ, to ‘come into his garden.’ By the garden is meant the church; and why it is so called, has been shown on 5:12, and in what sense it is Christ’s, and how he came to have a right to it, and property in it, has been observed in the former part of this verse, where Christ claims it, and the church here owns it; he calls to the south-wind, and says, ‘ blow upon my garden ;’ she here says, ‘let my beloved come into his garden:’ believers are willing to acknowledge that all they have, or are, belong to Christ; that they are not their own, but ‘are bought with a price;’ and therefore all they have and are, are for his use, and at his service; which they openly declare, and would have others take notice of, and therefore say, <19A003> Psalm 100:3. ‘Know ye, that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;’ that is, who hath re-made as: we are new creatures in Christ, and are his workmanship, and not our own; ‘we are his people,’ in a way of special and covenant-grace; ‘and the sheep of his pasture,’ whom he has taken the care and charge of, as the great shepherd; has laid down his life for, and feeds and leads into good pasture.

    The next thing to be taken notice of, is, what is meant by Christ’s ‘coming into his garden.’ There is a threefold coming of Christ, mentioned in the scripture. 1st, His coming in the flesh. This was what the Old Testament saints earnestly desired, prayed and longed for: it was not only the wish of David, but of the whole church; he spoke the language of all their hearts, when he said, Psalm 14:7. ‘O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!’

    This being long promised, and long expected, the faith of the saints sometimes grew weak and languid concerning it; therefore the promises which respected it, were frequently renewed and repeated, and the prophets bid to say, Isaiah 35:4, to them that were of a fearful heart, Fear not, be strong, your God will come and save you;’ and when they by faith saw the time near at hand, and him approaching, they were filled with joy and exultation; hence it is said, ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! behold thy king cometh unto thee,’ etc. Zechariah 9:9, but this, I apprehend, is not intended in these words of the church. 2dly, There is his coming at the last day to judge the world, which is usually called his second coming; which is what the apostle intends, when he says, Hebrews 9:28. ‘Unto them that look for him, shall he appear the second time, without sin unto salvation.’ The first time of his appearing in the flesh, though it was without sin of his own, yet not without the sins of his people; which were imputed to him, charged upon him, and he answered for them; but when he appears the second time, it shall be without them, they being already expiated and atoned for. He came the first time to obtain salvation for sinners, and will come the second time to put them into the full possession of it; and as the first coming of Christ was desired by the Old Testament saints; so this is desired by the New Testament saints; who, upon Christ’s saying, ‘Surely I come quickly,’ answer, ‘Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus:’ it will fill the saints with wonder and joy; for he, when he comes, will be both glorified in them, and admired by them, though it will strike the wicked with dread and terror, and fill them with the utmost consternation; for his coming will be ‘in flaming fire, to take vengeance’ on them. But neither is this, I think, she coming intended here. But, 3dly, There is a spiritual coming of Christ; which is, when he comes and pays a visit, grants his presence, manifests his love, discloses the secrets of his heart unto his people; which was what he promised his sorrowing disciples, when he was about to remove from them, and they were no longer to enjoy’ his bodily presence; says he, John 14:18. ‘I will not leave you comfortless, ojrfanou>v , orphans or fatherless, I will come to you;’ which promise Christ made good unto them, as he does to all his people at one time or another; for, says he, John 14:23. ‘If any man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him:’ that is, Father, Son, and Spirit, ‘and make our abode with him;’ which is what the church desires here, that Christ would grant her his spiritual, gracious and comfortable presence, and that she might have more intimate communion with him. From whence we may observe, 1. That Christ is sometimes absent from his church and people: He does not always manifest himself unto them; he sometimes hides his face, withdraws his presence, and seems to stand at a distance from them; he is sometimes Deus absconditus, the hidden God; he was so to the Jews in the days of his flesh, and he is so sometimes to his own flesh for ‘he hideth his face from the house of Jacob;’ his own church and people, for whom he has the greatest love and regard: not that Christ is ever really and wholly absent from his church; he is always in his garden; he has promised to be always with his people and ministers unto the end of the world, and his faithfulness stands engaged to make it good; but he does not always alike manifest himself unto them; they have not always alike views of his person, discoveries of his love, and enjoyments at his presence; which sometimes makes them say, with Job, ‘O that I were as in months past!’ etc. nay, sometimes in their apprehensions he is intirely gone, which is the church’s case, in chapter 5:9, and such is their infirmity, and the strength of unbelief in them, that they are ready to say, He is gone, and will never return more; and therefore, as David did, read all that in the affirmative, which you will find in Psalm 77:7-9, though I do not think this to be the case of the church here; she seems not to be without the manifestation of Christ’s love, and enjoyments of his presence, being in such a fruitful state, the south-wind having blown upon her, her grace appearing to be in exercise, and she in a comfortable frame; though she wanted more nearness to him, more intimate communion and fellowship with him: believers never think themselves near enough to Christ, nor never wilt, till they are with him in glory: the highest enjoyment of Christ here below, though exceeding ravishing and delightful, falls short of giving full satisfaction; for still the soul desires more and greater: the apostle Paul, who had as much communion and fellowship with Christ, as perhaps ever any man had on earth; and yet, when he had in view that eternal being with Christ hereafter, speaks as if he had never been with him here; all his communion with him here was nothing, when compared with that which he expected in another world, and therefore he had ‘a desire to depart, that he might he with Christ.’ 2. From hence may be observed, that Christ’s presence is exceeding desirable to believers; this is the one thing they seek after, and cannot be easy without; which, when enjoyed, gives them the utmost pleasure, and fills them with inexpressible joy: and the reason why Christ’s company and presence is so desirable to them, is because he is nearly related to them; he is their beloved, their head and husband; they are ‘members of his body, his flesh, and of his bones;’ he is their ‘all in all;’ and when he is in the garden f52 , all they want, and all they desire is there; for there is none in heaven nor in earth with them comparable to him; his coming revives the plants and herbs, and makes them fruitful; it causes the spices to flow, grace to appear in exercise; it is like ‘the rain, and as the latter and former rain unto the earth:’ also it is doing the saints the greatest honor; they have reason to say, Whence is this to us, that not ‘the mother of our Lord,’ as Elizabeth said to Mary, but our Lord himself should come to us? and yet this honor have all the saints. Moreover, Christ’s coming is always beneficial to believers; he never comes empty-handed; he never pays a visit, but he brings something with him; he never sups with his people, but he is at the charge of the whole entertainment. Again, it is Christ’s presence that makes his garden, the church, an Eden of pleasure, a heaven on earth; which makes it a Bethel, and ‘the gate of heaven:’ it is this which makes Christ’s tabernacles ‘amiable and lovely, his ways, ways of pleasantness, and his paths, paths of peace;’ it is this which makes his ‘yoke easy? and his ‘burden light,’ and all his commandments not to be grievous, but delightful; and when all this is considered, it is no wonder that believers are so desirous of Christ’s presence and company in his garden. 3. Hence it appears, that Christ’s granting his presence with his church, is an act of wonderful grace and condescension; and therefore she asks it as a favor of him; and a surprising instance of his grace it is, that he who is the high and lofty one, should vouchsafe his presence to such vile and unworthy creatures as we be. The Septuagint render it, ‘let him descend into his garden’ f53 ; and, agreeable hereunto in chapter 6:2, he is said to be ‘gone down into his garden,’ intending his wonderful condescension:

    Solomon, at the dedication of the temple, said, ‘But will God indeed dwell on the earth?’ We have reason to say with Judas, not Iscariot, ‘Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?’ especially when, with the centurion, we consider, that we are not worthy that he should come under our roof.

    III. The end of her making this request or invitation, is, that he might ‘eat his pleasant fruits:’ in which may be considered, 1st, What these fruits are. 2dly, Whose they are. 3dly, That they are pleasant ones. And, 4thly, What is meant by eating them. 1st, What these fruits are. By fruits are meant, either the graces of the Spirit, which are called ‘the fruit of the spirit,’ Galatians 5:22, or else, the duties and services of God’s people, their good works, which are performed in the exercise of grace, believers are ‘trees of righteousness;’ and the fruits which they bear are called ‘fruits of righteousness;’ being by grace made good trees, they bring forth good fruit, and are said to be ‘ fruitful in every good work;’ now these Christ is here invited to eat. The Targum expounds it of the offerings of the people, which God graciously accepted. 2dly, Whose fruit is this, is the next inquiry; and they are said to be his, that is, Christ’s: the garden is his, and all the fruit of it; only, as one well observes, the weeds are hers; every thing else in the garden, that is either for service or pleasure, belongs to him. The graces of the Spirit are his, 1. He is the procurer and possessor of them; he obtained all grace for his church and people in the everlasting covenant; he then asked for it, and it was granted him and given to us in him, on condition of his performing certain articles then agreed upon; so that, as the glorious mediator of the covenant, he is ‘full of grace and truth, and from his fullness do saints receive grace for grace;’ it is all lodged in his hands, and from thence given forth to us. 2. He is the author of all grace; he is said to be the author and finisher of faith; and as he is the author of that, so he is of all other grace; he gives it to us, and by his Spirit works it in us; he is the green fir-tree, from whom all our fruit is found, for otherwise we have none of ourselves. 3. He is the object of all grace, particularly faith, hope, and love; he is the person in whom we believe, trust and depend on for life and salvation; on whom our hope of glory is fixed, and to whom our love and affections are drawn; so that these fruits may be truly said to be his; also our duties, services, and good works, performed in the exercise of grace, are his; for, (1.) They are performed by virtue of union to him; and therefore the fruits of righteousness are said to be by Jesus Christ; and ‘as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine,’ no more can any bear fruit, or perform good works aright, except they are engrafted and abide in Christ: he is the root which bears the branches, and from whence they receive sap and nourishment, which causes them to abound with fruit; ‘the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit,’ says Solomon, Proverbs 12:12. now the righteous man’s root is Christ. (2.) They are done, ‘not in their own strength, but in his;’ for without him they can do nothing; it is he who works in them, both ‘to will and to do of his good pleasure;’ therefore they ascribe all their works, duties and services to him; and say, as the apostle did, when he had asserted that he had labored more abundantly than the rest of the apostles, corrects himself thus, ‘yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.’ (3.) They are designed for his honor and glory, when performed aright; they do not seek themselves, their own carnal interest, nor worldly applause, nor expect to merit any thing by them; but what they do, is in a way of obedience and gratitude to Christ, and that he in all things may be glorified; they are performed in his strength, and designed his use; and so are properly his; which being considered, destroys that notion which advances the merit of good works. 3dly, These fruits are said to be pleasant, that is, grateful, well-pleasing, and acceptable to Christ; so are the graces of the Spirit, especially when in exercise, as appears from verses 9,10, and so are the good works of his people, when performed in faith, from a principle of love to him, and are directed to his glory; the smallest services of his saints to him, and the least acts of charity to his, are acceptable to him, when performed in the exercise of grace; and he will take notice of them, and openly declare it one day before angels and men, how well pleased he is with them. 4thly, What is meant by earing them: and this intends Christ’s acceptation of them, and delight in them, as also his enjoyment of them; the phrase of eating and drinking being; with the Jews, expressive of enjoyment: and it also farther declares, the church’s acknowledgment of Christ being the owner of the garden; for who should eat of the fruits of it, but he who has planted it, and takes care of it, and to whom all the fruit belongs? knowing it therefore to be so, she here invites him to his own; which invitation is not disregarded, but observed by him, as appears from the following words. CHAPTER 5.

    This chapter begins with Christ’s answer to the church’s request, at the close of the preceding chapter; in which he inform her, that he was come into his garden, as she desired; and gives an account of what ha had done there; and kindly invites her, and his dear friends, to feast with him there, verse 1. Then she relates her case and circumstances, which followed upon her sleepy frame, and ungrateful carriage to her beloved; which he resenting, he withdrew from her, and this gave her sensible pairs, verses 2-6. Also what treatment she met with from the watchmen; her charge to the daughters of Jerusalem; and the questions they put to her about her beloved, verses 7-9, which led her to give a large description of him, by his several parts, head, hair, etc., verses 10-15. And the chapter is concluded with a general commendation of him and his loveliness, and a claim of interest in him, verse 36.

    VERSE 1.

    I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse, I have gathered my myrrh with my spice, I have eaten my honey-comb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.

    THIS verse properly belongs unto, and is a part of the preceding chapter.

    The bible, when first wrote, was not divided into chapters, as now it is: this is a work purely human and not divine, therefore liable to correction. And I much wonder that the authors of this work should begin this chapter with this verse, which ought to end the former, as both the words and sense of them manifestly show; for this chapter ought to begin at verse 2, where the church begins a new account of her state and case, and of some other remarkable occurrences which befell her, not hitherto spoken of. In this verse may be observed, I. Christ’s reply to the church’s request, in the latter end of the former chapter, where she desires and invites him to come into his garden. II. An account of Christ’s carriage and behavior, or what he did when he came into his garden.

    III. A kind invitation given by Christ to his friends to feast with him.

    I. Here is a reply made by. Christ to the church’s request or invitation; ‘I am come into my garden, my sister; my spouse.’ The titles which he gives her, have been already’ taken notice of and explained, in chapter 4:8,9, and this reply of his unto her may be considered, either by way of denial to her, so some interpret it; as though Christ did not answer the church’s wishes and desires, but rather gives a reason why he does not; and wherefore she had no reason to expect his presence a long time; because, says he, I have been in my garden already, and there I have gathered my myrrh and the rest of my spices; I have got in my harvest or vintage, and I have eat my honey and honey-comb, and drunk my wine and milk; and therefore to what purpose should I now come into my garden? thou canst not expect me, until more myrrh and ether spices grow: or else, as a correction of her mistake, as if he should say, Dost thou invite me to come into my garden, as if I was absent from it? thou art mistaken, I am always in it, and never out of it; and am now there, gathering my myrrh and spice, eating my honey and honey-comb, and drinking my wine and milk, From hence may be observed, that Christ may be in his church, among his people, or with particular believers, and they not know it; so God was in the place where Jacob was, and he knew it not: and thus it was with Mary at the sepulcher; Christ was at her elbow, and she knew him not; he speaks to her, and yet she is ignorant, and takes him for the gardener, until he calls her by her name, Mary, and theft she knew him, and turns herself, ‘and saith unto him, Rabboni, that is to say, master.’ Though I rather think the words are to be taken as a direct answer of Christ’s to the church; she desires and invites him to come into his garden, and accordingly he does come, and lets her know of it: in which we may take notice, 1. Of the speediness of it; she no sooner asks, but it is granted; no sooner invites, but he comes; and before she had well done speaking, makes a reply; his answer was ready; he was as willing to come, as she was to desire him; which makes good what is said in Isaiah 65:24. ‘And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer,’ that is, will be ready to give an answer; ‘ and while they are yet speaking, I will hear:’ a famous instance of this kind we have in Daniel; who, ‘while he was speaking in prayer,’ and confessing to God his own sins, and the sins of his people, the angel Gabriel was caused to fly swiftly to him; who informed him, that at the beginning of his supplications, as soon as the good man was on his knees, and had opened his mouth in prayer to God, ‘the commandment came forth,’ orders were given, and he, as a messenger from heaven, dispatched to bring him an answer; but God does not always do so; ‘the vision is for an appointed time,’ and must he waited for till it comes. 2. The nature of this answer is worth observing, being exactly according to her request; Christ does not always do so: when the apostle Paul had ‘a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him,’ he besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from him; but it does not appear by the answer which was given him, that his request was granted immediately; the answer, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee,’ was a very glorious one, enough to support him under his present exercise, but gives us no intimation that it immediately freed him from it; it being sometimes most for our good and for God’s glory, not to be immediately and exactly answered: but here, as she was answered speedily, so exactly; she desires him to ‘come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits;’ he tells her, that he was come into his garden, and did eat his honey-comb with his honey: which shews, 3. That her request was according to his will, in that she was answered so speedily and exactly; for ‘if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; and therefore our great concern in prayer should be, that we might be under the directions and influences of the Spirit of God, and that he would make intercession for us, according to the will of God, who perfectly knows it; and when we ask a favor or intreat a blessing, it should be always with submission to the divine will, in imitation of our dear Lord, and so shall we be most likely to succeed. 4. It may be observed, that Christ not only answers her, but lets her know it; not only grants his presence, but gives her intimations of it; he himself acquaints her with it; for, as has been observed, Christ may be present with believers, and they not know it: so he was with the two disciples who were going to Emmaus; he walked with them, conversed with them, opened the scriptures to them, and their hearts burned within them while he did so; and yet they knew him not, till he was made known to them in breaking of bread: it is not only an instance of Christ’s grace to be present with us, but also to assure us that he is so. I have shewn in chapter 4:16, what is intended by Christ’s coming into his garden; and therefore, II. Shall now proceed to take notice of his carriage and behavior there, or what he declares he did, or was doing; being there. 1st, He says, ‘I have gathered my myrrh with my spice? Myrrh is one of the chief spices, was a principal ingredient in the holy anointing oil, and was used in other ointments. We read of the oil or ointment of myrrh, in Esther 2:12, with which Esther and the other maidens were purified, in order to be presented to king Ahasuerus: this, and other sorts of ointments, as spikenard, were used in feasts, and were poured upon the heads of those who were the guests, as appears from Mark 14:3, to which custom the Psalmist alludes, Psalm 23:5. Christ being about to make a feast, not only for himself, but for others, gathers myrrh, with other spices, to make an ointment of, to entertain and refresh his guests with. By myrrh, with the rest of spices, may be meant, either repentance and humiliation for sin, and mortification of it, according to some interpreters; and indeed repentance and humiliation for sin, when evangelical, being the work of the blessed Spirit, springing from right principles, and kata QeoGod of love and grace; and when it springs from faith’s viewing a crucified Christ; though, like myrrh, it is bitter to the soul, yet is odorous and well-pleasing to Christ; it is taken notice of by him, as Ephraim’s bemoanings, repentance and humiliation, were by God; he has a bottle to put such tears as these in, which drop from faith’s eye: and so mortification of sin, considered as the Spirit’s grace, is regarded by him, according to Romans 8:13. ‘If ye, through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.’ Or else, according to others f57 , by myrrh with other spices, are intended the suffering saints and martyrs, who have undergone bitter afflictions and persecutions for Christ and his gospel; whom he values, esteems, takes notice of, and gathers into his Father’s house; where he clothes them with white robes, puts palms in their hands, and everlasting hallelujahs in their mouths; see Revelation 7:9-14, or rather, the sufferings of Christ himself, and the fruits thereof; which, though bitter to him, yet are of a sweet-smelling savor to God the Father, and to all the saints; the fruits of which, appearing in the everlasting salvation of his people, are very delightful to him; for he now sees of the ‘travail of his soul, and is satisfied;’ he is now reaping with pleasure a glorious harvest of all his sweat, toil and labor. Though I rather choose to understand hereby in general the graces of the Spirit, which Christ delights in, and which go under the name of myrrh and other spices, in chapter 4:13,14. Christ having got in his harvest, as the word signifies, and the Septuagint render it, provides a feast for himself and others; as was the custom of those times and nations, as it is now with us. And therefore, 2dly, He says, ‘I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey.’ Honey was the food, not only of infants, but of grown persons, as is manifest from Isaiah 7:22, but that he should eat the honeycomb with it, seems to have some difficulty in it. The Septuagint read it thus, I have eaten my bread with my honey f58 , that is, either bread dipped in honey, or honey being put upon it, or else bread made with it; which sense is favored by those words in Ezekiel 16:13. ‘Thou didst eat fine flower, and honey, and oil,’ that is, bread made thereof: R. Sol. Jarchi says, it is the honey which grows in canes; he means, sugar, which, by Arrianus f59 , is called me>li kala>minon ; and that for the exceeding love he had for it, he is said to eat it out of the cane; but it rather seems to be a piece of an honeycomb full of honey, just took out of the hive; such an one as the disciples gave Christ; and this was had in no small esteem among the Jews. The word for honeycomb signifies a wood or forest f60 , and may design such honey as was found in woods; though here, it should seem, in a garden, of which there was plenty in Judea, 1 Samuel 14:25, which of its own accord dropped from the comb, and ran down the tree from it, in which it was, and was reckoned the purest honey: and the other word for honey, may signify common honey, or honey made of the fruit of the palm-tree; which, the Jewish writers say, is the honey meant in Deuteronomy 8:8, and so the words may be rendered, ‘I have eaten my wood-honey with my palm-honey;’ for it cannot be thought that the honey and the comb were both eat together. And by the honey and honeycomb, may be meant the doctrines of the gospel, or the words of Christ’s mouth, which are said to be sweeter than the honey or the honey-comb:’ so that Christ delights, not only in the graces of the Spirit, but also in the doctrines of the gospel, and the preaching of them. 3dly, He says, ‘I have drunk my wine with my milk.’ Having eat, he drinks, to shew that he had a complete feast, and nothing was wanting to give him satisfaction; not only wine, but milk was used for drink, by many nations, and no doubt by the Hebrews: we find that Jael gave Sisera milk to drink when he was thirsty, as being preferable to water; but that wine and milk should be drank together, is not so usual; though it may be observed, that a mixture of wine and milk was used by the ancients f62 , and is by us, which, Clemens of Alexandria says f63 , is a very profitable and healthful mixture.

    Some of the Jewish writers think, that by wine, is meant red wine, and by milk, white wine; and so the Targum expounds the words of God’s acceptation of the drink-offering of red and white wine, which the priests poured upon the altar: R. Aben Ezra gives it as the sense of some of their Rabbins, though he does not approve of it; that by milk, is meant the white which ascends upon the wine; I suppose he means the froth or head that is made by pouring it out. But to leave these empty conjectures, this seems in general to intend the plenty of provisions, and satisfaction therein, which Christ found in his church; by which may be meant the doctrines of the gospel. Gospel grace is represented hereby, in Isaiah 55:1. ‘By wine and milk, without money and without price:’ wine revives and cheats the spirits, makes a man to forget his poverty, and to remember his misery no more; so do the doctrines of the gospel, when they come with power to a poor sinner, sensible of his poverty and misery; they make him to forget it, and fill him with an unspeakable joy: milk nourishes and strengthens; and so do the doctrines of the gospel; therefore says the apostle, ‘I have fed you with milk,’ meaning the wholesome and nourishing words of faith.

    Now from all this I would observe, 1. That here is a variety: as at a feast, there is a variety of dishes, different sorts, both for eating and drinking; so here are myrrh and spice, honey, and the honeycomb, wine, and milk. 2. That here is nothing but what is sweet, savory and wholesome; myrrh and spice are of a delightful odor; honey is sweet to the taste, and. wine and milk are wholesome and nourishing. 3. That all these are Christ’s own; it is his own he feasts and makes himself welcome with; he does not say, ‘I have gathered thy myrrh with thy spice,’ which grow in thy garden; ‘I have eaten thy honeycomb with thy honey; I have drunk thy wine with thy milk;’ but it is my myrrh and my spice, my honey’ and my honeycomb, my wine and my milk: Christ would have but a poor entertainment, if he had no other than what we can provide for him of our own. 4. Christ appears exceedingly delighted and well pleased with all this; therefore he plucks and gathers, eats and drinks: the smallest degree of grace, and the weakest performances of his people, he takes notice of and regards; he eats his honeycomb, as well as his honey, and drinks his milk, as well as his wine; for a ‘bruised reed. shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench.’ III. In these words is also an invitation of Christ to his friends to eat and drink; he is not willing to eat his morsel alone; as he feeds, feasts, and delights himself in the graces of his own Spirit in his people, so he will have them feed and feast upon his person and grace; into whatsoever heart Christ comes, he will not only sup with them, but will make them also sup with him. And here are to be considered, 1st, The persons whom he invites. 2dly, What it is he invites them to. 1st , Who the persons are whom Christ invites; and they are here called friends and beloved; by whom are meant, not the angels, which is the mind of some f64 ; though it is true, they are Christ’s friends, and rejoice at the conversion of elect sinners, and in the prosperity of his church and people; yet I think they are not intended here: nor the priests, whose right it was to eat the remainder of the sacrifices, as many Jewish writers expound the words: but rather believers in Christ, who of enemies are made friends; being first reconciled to God by the death of Christ, and then to himself by his Spirit and grace; whom he regards and treats as such, by granting them his presence, paying them visits, and disclosing the secrets of his heart unto them; and so he said to his disciples, John 15:14,15. ‘Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you:’ now these are enabled, through divine grace, to shew themselves friendly to Christ again, by valuing his presence, delighting in his company, regarding his ordinances, and observing his commands; for though these things do not make friends, yet they shew them to be so; as Christ says, ‘Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.’ These are also the beloved of his soul; he has loved them with an everlasting love, and has given the fullest proofs and clearest demonstrations of it that possibly can be; which being manifested to their souls, begets love to him again; on the account of which he calls them friends and beloved. But, 2dly, It will be proper to consider what he invites his friends and beloved to; to eat and drink, yea, to drink abundantly: but what is it they are to eat and drink of, or to feast upon? why, Christ himself, who is the bread of life, and the hidden manna, whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed; which if a man eats, and feeds upon by faith, he shall never hunger, nor die the second death, hut live for ever: moreover, his love is what they ate to drink of, and that largely; it being preferable to wine, may be drank of, without danger, plentifully; they may drink, yea, be inebriated with loves f66 , as the words may be rendered; for here is enough of it, and no fear of receiving any danger by it; and all this together makes up that feast of fat things, of wines on the less well refined, which the Lord’s supper is a representation of. And this shews, 1. The plenteousness of the provisions which Christ makes in his house for his people: it is not an empty house that Christ keeps, a niggardly feast that he makes; but here is food, and that in plenty, and drink enough and to spare. 2. That a believer is heartily welcome to the entertainment which Christ makes: it is true, we are unworthy creatures of ourselves; but seeing Christ has made such entertainments for us, and has so kindly invited us, let us use freedom and eat; and the more heartily we feed on these royal dainties, the more welcome we are; and to assure believers that they are so, he, in his invitation to them, gives them the titles of friends and beloved: nay, the very manner of the invitation, not only declares the plenteousness of the feast, but also the largeness and sincerity of his heart in it. 3. It also lets us know, that Christ neither invites nor allows any to feed and feast with him, but those who are his friends, whom he accounts and makes so; this is a privilege peculiar to them, which indeed none can enjoy but they. And as for the external ordinance of the Lord’s supper, that feast of love, none have a right to eat of it, but those who are Christ’s friends; and to none but those is it profitable and edifying; for he does not manifest himself, nor discover his love to any other: these are his darlings and favorites; with these he grants his presence at his table, and satisfies their souls with the goodness of his house.

    VERSE 2.

    I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, ray dove, ray undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and ray locks with the drops of the night.

    THESE are the words of the church, who here begins to give an account of her present state and condition; how that after this spiritual banquet, which she had partook of with Christ, she fell asleep, as the disciples did in the garden, after they had been with Christ, at his table: and also, what methods he made use of to awake her; how basely and ungratefully she treated him; which he resented, and shewed by a departure from her; which when she was sensible of, was troubled at, and made enquiry after him, first of the watchmen, who abused her, and then of the daughters of Jerusalem, who question her about him; which gave her occasion to give that large and excellent account of him, which closes this chapter: and it may be observed, that as Christ speaks most in the preceding chapter, so she does in this. In these words are these two things, I. The church’s account of her present state and condition.

    II. Christ’s carriage and behavior to her in this condition.

    I. The account she gives of her present state and condition; ‘I sleep, but my heart waketh:’ like persons half awake and half asleep, whom Cicero f67 calls semisomni; the phrase is sometimes used to describe a sluggish, slothful man f68 . This case which the church was now in, is different from that recorded in chap. in. there she was upon her bed indeed, but not asleep; there she was seeking after her beloved; but here he is seeking to her, and intreating her in the most kind and affectionate manner to arise, and let him in; there she of her own accord arose and sought him in the streets and broad ways; but here she continues in this sleepy and lazy condition, notwithstanding the pressing instances and powerful arguments which he made use of, until he exerted his mighty grace, which caused her to arise and open to him; but then he was gone: there she inquires of the watchmen, who, though we do not read of any answer they gave her, yet they did not abuse her; but here they smite her, wound her, and take away her veil from her; there, a little after she had passed from them she found him; but here she appears to be even sick of love before she found him. In this account of hers, two things are asserted by her, First, That she was asleep. Yet, Secondly, Her heart was awake.

    First, She acknowledges that she was asleep. ‘I sleep.’ This is not the dead sleep of sin, in whom all unconverted per. sons are; nor that judicial slumber, which God suffers to fall upon some; but such an one, which though displeasing to Christ and unbecoming the believer, yet is consistent with a principle of grace. The church here was not so fast asleep, but she could hear, know, and distinguish the voice of Christ; her sleep is much the same with that of the wise virgins, who all slumbered and slept, as well as the foolish, and yet had oil in their lamps, which they had not. And in taking notice of this part of the church’s case, I will endeavor, 1st, To shew wherein this sleepy frame, which sometimes attend believers, does consist, or wherein it shews itself. 2dly, What are the springs and causes of it, or from whence it proceeds. 3dly, The danger of such a frame. 1st, It will be proper to shew wherein this sleepy frame of spirit does consist, or wherein it shews itself, 1. It consists in a non-exercise of grace; though there is grace in the heart, yet it is but very little exercised by persons in this condition, it lies dormant; faith is weak and languid, hope abates in its former liveliness, and love in its warmth and fervency; it grows cold; there is such a thing as a leaving, though not a losing our first love. 2. It appears in a sluggishness and slothfulness to or in duty; for though persons have not wholly cast off the fear of God, and restrained prayer before him, as Eliphaz, Job 15:4 wrongfully charged Job; yet there is a backwardness to it, and a laziness appears in the performance of it; there is a want of that fervency and spirit, which formerly discovered itself whilst they were serving the living God. 3. It manifests itself in a contentation in the external parts of religion:

    Internal religion is at a low ebb in their souls; they hear, and read, and pray, and attend on ordinances, contenting themselves with the bare performance of these things, without having their hearts engaged, their faith in exercise, and their affections raised; and so come short of answering the character of being worshippers of God in the spirit; either under the influences of the eternal Spirit, or with their own spirits influenced thereby, which formerly was their great concern in religious worship. 4. It discovers itself in a carelessness, lukewarmness, and unconcernedness for the cause of Christ: persons in such a condition may be observed sensibly to abate in their zeal, both for the doctrines of the gospel, and the discipline of God’s house; they seek their own things, and not the things which are Jesus Christ’s; they mind their own celled houses, and let the house of God lie waste; they come far short of imitating Christ, their glorious head, of whom it is said, Psalm 69:9, that the zeal of God’s house eat him up; things may go how they will for ought they care, who have got into this frame of spirit. 5. It shews itself in an unconcernedness, as to omission of duty, and commission of sin: time was, when these persons could not omit a duty occasioned by the hurrying business of life, but it gave them great uneasiness; could not do those things which by some are not accounted sinful, but it burdened their consciences; but now they can neglect duties time after time, fall in with the customs and corruptions of the age, and be very little concerned about it. 6. In a willingness to continue so: they do not love to be jogged; grow peevish when any attempts are made to awaken them; their language is that of the sluggard, Proverbs 6:10, ‘yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.’ This seems to be the case of the church, who being asleep, did not care to be disturbed; and therefore made those idle excuses she did, when called upon in the most tender and affectionate manner to arise. 2dly, What are the true springs and causes of this sleepy frame, or from whence it does proceed, 1. From a ‘body of sin’ they carry about with them; which fleshly, gross and earthly part in them, induces heaviness, and inclines to sleep: the cold humors of sin benumb the soul, and bring upon it a spiritual lethargy; ‘like the poison of asps,’ it operates this way; the deceitful charms of sin sometimes lull them asleep. 2. Worldly cares have sometimes this effect upon God’s people; an immoderate thirst and pursuit after the things of this world, oftentimes makes persons grow indifferent about the things of another; it runs them into many temptations and snares; it frequently causes them to omit private and family duty, and ‘ chokes the word’ and ordinances, that they become unfruitful; being surfeited and overcharged with it, they fall into this drowsy and sleepy frame. 3. It arises sometimes from a cessation from spiritual exercises; idleness, or a want of exercise induces sleep: when believers grow weary of well-doing, and grow remiss in the duties of meditation, prayer, hearing and reading; grace, as to the exercise of it, declines, and their souls fall into a spiritual slumber. 4. It sometimes springs from, and is increased by an absenting from the ministry, especially an awaking one, which might be useful to rouse them; and from the company of lively Christians by conversing with whom, their souls, through the blessing of divine grace, might be kept awake; but instead of this, they’ neglect the ministry of the word, leave off the company of those warm and lively souls, and converse with cold and formal professors, which bring them into, and continues them in this sleepy frame. 5. Sometimes it follows upon an enjoyment of ease, peace and liberty; therefore some interpret these words of the state of the church in Constantine’s time, when the church not only enjoyed freedom from persecution, but also abounded in riches and prosperity, and upon it grew careless, secure and sleepy; by reason of which many errors, both in doctrine and discipline, crept into the church; and I am afraid, that the long enjoyment of peace and liberty which we have had, has brought us into much the same frame of spirit. 3dly , The danger of being in such a state and condition, 1. When the church of Christ is in such a condition, it lies liable to be filled with hypocrites, and pestered with heretics: to be filled with hypocrites, because it has not then such a spirit of discerning; these may then more easily impose themselves upon it: to be pestered with heresies and heretics, of which there have been lamentable instances, that ‘while men slept, the enemy sowed tares;’ which roots of bitterness have sprung up with the wheat of sound doctrine, and have troubled some, and defiled others; and I wish I could say, that this is not the case of the churches of Christ now, nor these the dreadful consequences of her being in such an one. 2. Particular believers, who are got into this sleepy and drowsy frame, are exposed to every sin and every temptation; therefore said Christ to his disciples, Matthew 26:41, ‘watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation;’ knowing, that when asleep, they might easily be led into it:

    What may not the ‘devouring lion’ be suffered to do to persons in such a condition? Into what sins and snares may he not be permitted to lead them, though he shall never destroy them? 3. They are liable to be deprived of Christ’s presence, which was the case of the church here: she had had a glorious enjoyment of Christ’s presence; he had been with her in his garden, and had made a noble entertainment for her and his friends, quickly after which she falls asleep; and after he had made some attempts to awake her, and had given some notices of his regard to her, withdraws himself from her, verse 6. 4. Such may be robbed of what is valuable and dear unto them; a man that is asleep, any thing that he has, money, jewels, etc. may be taken from him; so a believer, though he cannot lose his grace, nor that treasure which he has in heaven, yet he may lose his comfort and liveliness; and the truths of the gospel may be more easily wrung out of his hands. 5. Such a sleepy, lazy frame, tends to spiritual poverty; it brings leanness upon the soul: grace, as to its exercise, is brought low thereby, and the soul into a declining condition. 6. Such persons are liable to be surprised with the midnight-cry; though it is tree those who are real believers, shall never be found without oil in their lamps, but shall be always ready in Christ for his appearance; yet it will not be so startling and surprising to the waking, as to the sleepy virgins. 7. Such a frame is both displeasing to Christ and uncomfortable to themselves: a lukewarm frame Christ so resents, that he threatens to ‘spew such out of his mouth;’ neither is it very comfortable to themselves; it is but broken sleep they have; they are disturbed with many startlings and joggings of conscience; like persons who know it is their duty to arise and be about their business, and yet have no power to do so, being overcome with sleep.

    Secondly, She declares, that notwithstanding she slept, yet her heart was awake. R. Sol. Jarchi divides these words, and refers the former clause, ‘I sleep,’ to the bride; and this here, ‘my heart waketh,’ to the bridegroom; and so he says, it is expounded ha an ancient book of theirs, called Pesikta f70 : and then the sense is, Though I have been, and am in a sleepy frame of spirit, yet he who is my heart f71 , my life, my soul, my all; he whom I love with all my heart, and who is the rock, the strength of my heart, mad my portion for ever; he, I say, never slumbers nor sleeps, but watches over me night and day even when I am asleep, that nothing hurts me. But in another ancient book of theirs, called Zohar f72 , I dad both clauses referred to the church, and so they are to be understood; ‘my heart waketh,’ that is, my regenerate part, which is sometimes called in scripture, ‘the spirit,’ and the ‘inward man;’ that is to say, so far as my carnal and unregenerate heart prevails, ‘I sleep;’ and so far as I am renewed and sanctified, ‘my heart waketh:’ she was not so fast asleep, but that, 1. She had some thoughts of heart concerning Christ; he was not wholly out of her mind; though she was asleep, her thoughts were running upon, and employed about her beloved; his image was so impressed upon her mind, that she thought him present; and every thing that stirred, supposed it was he, and that she heard his voice; even as lovers in their sleep, have their thoughts running upon the person who is the object of their love. 2. There were some stirrings of affections in her towards him; though she had got into this sleepy and lazy frame of soul, yet Christ was still the object of her love; and therefore she says, ‘it is the voice of my beloved;’ she was not so fast asleep, but that she could not only know and distinguish the voice of Christ, but she could also call him ‘ her beloved? 3. There were no doubt some convictions of sin upon her conscience: we must not suppose her to be in such a dead sleep, as to be ‘past feeling,’ or to have her ‘conscience seared with an hot iron;’ she was sensible of her evil, in indulging such a flame; though, being overcome with sleep, she had no power to guard against it. 4. It is highly probable, that she was not without some desires after being in her duty, as being uneasy in her present case; it seems to be with her, as it was with the disciples when asleep, of whom Christ says, ‘that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak;’ they, with her here, had a will to duty, a will to watch and pray with him; ‘but how to perform they knew not,’ being overpowered with this fleshly and earthly part.

    Now from this whole account which she gives of herself, as sleeping, and yet waking, we may observe the following things. (1.) That a believer has two different principles in him; a principle of corruption, and a principle of grace; the one he brings into the world with him, the other is wrought by the Spirit of God; and these are represented as two different persons, both by the church here, who speaks of and that sleeps, and an heart that wakes; and by the apostle elsewhere, who speaks of a new man, and an old man; of himself, as having no good thing dwelling in him, and yet of an I that sinneth not; see Romans 7:18-20. Ephesians 4:22-24 (2.) That these two different principles may exert themselves, at one and the same time, in a believer; ‘the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other: the law in the members wars against the law in the mind, and the law in the mind opposes the law in the members;’ and at the same time she sleeps, her heart wakes. (3.) That corruption may seem to have the ascendant, in a believer’s heart for a time; it seems to have had k in the church here; sleep overpowered her, though her heart was awake: this law in the members may carry captive for some time, and have such a power over the believer, as that he cannot do the good which he would. (4.) Notwithstanding, true grace cannot be lost in a believer; it is an immortal seed which remains and abides; grace is always alive, though not always alike lively; it is ‘a well of living water springing up into everlasting life.’ (5.) The difference between a carnal and a spiritual heart; the one is in a dead sleep, the other, though asleep, yet his heart wakes; the one has spirit as well as flesh, the other is nothing but flesh. And, considering these as the words of the church, they inform us, 1. That believers have a discerning of their state and condition; when in the lowest, they know in some measure how it is with them, and can observe a difference in themselves, from themselves, and from what they have formerly been, which an unconverted person is a stranger to; he is not capable of making such a remark as this upon himself, which the church here does; though it is true, the believer may be left sometimes to make a wrong judgment of himself. 2. That believers are ingenuous in acknowledging their sins, failings ,and infirmities; which is an evidence of the truth of grace, and that there are more or less some stirrings of it, where this spirit is. 3. That it is the duty of believers to take notice of their grace, as well as of their sin; and therefore the church takes notice of her ‘waking heart,’ as well as of her ‘sleeping I:’ we should be careful how we deny or lessen the work of the Spirit of God upon our souls, but speak of it to the glory of him who is the author of it; who can, does, and will keep our hearts awake, grace alive there; though we, with the church, may be sometimes suffered to fall asleep: thus much for her state and condition. Now follows, II. Christ’s carriage and behavior to her when in this state, as acknowledged by herself. 1st, He called unto her, and that so loud, that she, though asleep, could hear, and own it to be his voice, saying, ‘It is the voice of my beloved.’ By the voice of Christ, we must understand the gospel, as preached by his ministering servants; by whom he often calls to his drowsy and sleepy saints to awake, as he does here. In what sense the gospel is the voice of Christ, and how it may be and is distinguished by believers from the voice of strangers, have been shown in Song of Solomon 2:8. I need only add here, that as it is a distinguishing character of believers to know Christ’s voice; so they are capable of doing it, even when in a carnal and sleepy frame of soul: believers sometimes, under hearing the word, are very dull and heavy; there is but very little exercise of faith in them; yet: they can then distinguish the gospel from what is not so; though they are little affected with it, and receive but very little advantage by it: nay, it may be further observed, that she could say, it was the voice of her beloved; for though her faith and love were very low, yet they were not lost; but then let it be carefully remarked, that though she was capable of making such observations on what she heard, yet she was not thoroughly awaked hereby, but sleeps on still: thus, notwithstanding Christ’s passionate expostulation with his disciples in the garden, saying, ‘What, could ye not watch with me one hour?’ I say, notwithstanding this, they fall asleep again. Christ’s word, without his power, will neither quicken dead sinners, nor awake sleepy saints; neither of these will be affected by it, unless he puts in the finger of his powerful and efficacious grace, ‘by the hole of the door,’ as he does in verse 4. Well, Christ calling her by his ministers, and not awaking her, he takes another method: and therefore, 2dly, Knocks, and calls again, saying, Open to me, etc. There is, 1. A knocking at sinners hearts at first conversion. The heart of an unconverted sinner is bolted and barred against Christ, with the strong bolts and bars of sin and unbelief: elect sinners, whilst in a state of nature, are stout-hearted, and far from righteousness; they are unwilling to submit to Christ and his righteousness, nor to open the doors of their hearts, and let the king of glory in: he stands and knocks there, by the preaching of the gospel; and, having the key of David in his hands, ‘he openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth, and no man openeth;’ with this key of almighty and efficacious grace, he openeth their hearts, as he did Lydia’s; and, with the hammer of his word, breaks them in pieces, and causes all bolts and bars to fly before him; plucks down the strong holds which Satan had made; dispossesses the strong man of his armor, wherein he trusted, to keep his palace in peace and safety; and reduces all in obedience to himself; where entering with his glorious train of graces, and hawing dethroned sin, sets up grace to reign in his stead; and takes possession of the heart as his palace, from whence sin and Satan will never be able to eject him. Now in this mighty work of grace, in thus conquering and subduing a sinner’s heart, we are not to suppose that here is a force upon the will; for though before they were unwilling, as well as unable to open and let him in, yet are now made willing in the day of his power, to submit unto him; they become voluntary subjects to him; and Christ meets with a kind reception and hearty welcome from them; so that they are as desirous of having him there, as he is of entering in, when this day of his power has passed upon them. But, 2. There is a knocking at churches, or at the hearts of particular believers; and of this we read in Revelation 3:20. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock,’ etc. the church of Lacodicea there appears to be in much the same case and condition as the church is here: the church here was asleep, though her heart was awake; and the church of Laodicea there was lukewarm, neither hot nor cold; which being highly displeasing to Christ, in order to bring her to a sense of her present condition, he comes and stands at the door, and knocks, as he does here. Now we are not to suppose that Christ is ever turned out of doors; that the key is turned upon him; or that he has not always a dwelling in his churches, or in the hearts of particular believers; for he is Christ in us, and in all believers, the hope of glory; he is there, and will continue there, till he has brought them to that glory which they are hoping for; though sometimes they are so shut up in their frames, that they can neither come forth themselves, in the enlargement of their desires and affections, and in the exercise of grace, nor let in Christ unto them; there is but very little communion between Christ and them; and though there is no distance or separation with respect to union, yet there is with regard to communion; there stands as it were a door, a wall, a middle wall of partition, between Christ and their souls; and oftentimes, which is still worse, they are secure, careless and unconcerned about it; therefore Christ, in order to bring them to a sense of themselves, and their present condition; that they may see their need of, and that desires may be stirred up in them, after communion with himself, comes and stands at the door, and knocks: which knocking I take to be, not by the ministry of the word, as before: but in a providential way, in a way of chastisement, by taking in his hand the rod of affliction or scourge of persecution, and lashing his children with them; with such severe raps and blows of persecution did he knock at the door of the church, in the times of Constantius, Valens and Julian, emperors of Rome, after she was fallen asleep, through the peace and prosperity which she enjoyed in the times of Constantine: the two former of which persecuted the orthodox ministers and others, in favor of the Arians; and the latter entirely apostatized from the Christian religion, and became a bitter enemy and cruel persecutor of it: and this is thought by some interpreters f73 , to be particularly intended here: and in this sense we are to understand knocking, in that parallel text, Revelation 3:20, as is manifest by comparing it with verse 19, ‘as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent; behold, I stand at the door and knock,’ etc. His knocking there, is no other than his rebukes and chastisements in a way of love, which were designed to bring her to a sense of herself, as appears from that exhortation, ‘be zealous therefore, and repent;’ and that she might see her need of, and have her desires enlarged after communion with him, as is manifest from these words; ‘if any man open to me, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me;’ which also is his end and design in knocking after this manner here; ‘it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me.’ There is an emphasis upon the word me! open to me, who am thy Lord, thy head, thy husband, and thy friend: and by opening to him; he means an enlarging of their affections and desires to him, which were now very cold and chill; and an exercise of their faith upon him, which was very weak; which they of themselves were no more capable to do, than a sinner is to open his heart to Christ at first conversion; this can only be done by him, who has the key of David, who openeth and no man shutteth, etc. and therefore we find this knocking was also ineffectual, until he exerted his mighty grace, as in verse 4, his saying to her, ‘open to me,’ is designed to convince her of her present condition, and what need she stood in of his presence and assistance. 3dly, Christ not only calls by the ministry of the word, and knocks in a providential way, by his rebukes and chastisements; but he also gives her good words, kind and endearing titles and characters: he calls to her, saying, ‘Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled.’ The three first of these titles and characters have been already considered and explained: the first title, my sister, is expressive of the near relation the church stands in to Christ, being ‘flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone,’ and has been spoken to on chapter 4:9, the second, ‘my love,’ shews the strong affection Christ had for her, she being the alone object of it, and has been opened on chapter 1:9, the third, ‘my dove,’ declares the church’s harmlessness and simplicity, her cleanness, purity and chastity, as has been shewn on chapter 2:14, and the fourth, ‘my undefiled, or my perfect one f74 , as it is in the Hebrew text, is what we have not yet met with, and therefore will deserve a little more consideration. And here it must be observed, that all the descendants of Adam, by ordinary generation, are polluted and defiled, both in their nature and actions; all the parts of their bodies, and powers and faculties of their souls are so; their will and affections, understanding and judgment, mind and conscience, are all defiled; and indeed how can at otherwise be, for ‘who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one:’ nay, believers themselves are not free from pollution; but complain of the uncleanness of their hearts and lips; and frankly acknowledge that they are all as an unclean thing, and that all their righteousnesses are as filthy rags: it may then seem strange, that Christ should call his church, and that in her present circumstances, his undefiled one; and so she is, not in herself; but as considered in him, believers are full of spots in themselves, but having in his spotless righteousness, he looks upon them as all fair, and as having no spot in them; they are the undefiled in the way, even whilst in the way to glory: and on this side the heavenly inheritance, which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth net away, reserved in the heavens far them. Or else, this character may regard her chastity to Christ; who, though she was guilty of many failings and infirmities, yet she had kept his bed undefiled; had not committed spiritual adultery, which is idolatry, but kept close to his ways and ordinances, as those we read of in Revelation 14:4, who, because they did not join with the whore of Rome in her abominations, are said not to be ‘defiled with women, for they are virgins; these are they which follow the lamb whithersoever he goeth.’ Now Christ calls his church by all those loving and endearing titles, 1. To shew that she stood in the same relation to him she ever did, and was loved by him with the same love she ever was; though sleepy and lazy, careless and negligent of her duty, and regardless of him, yet she is his sister, his love, his dove, his undefiled: notwithstanding all this, there was a change in the frame of her soul, and in her carriage and behavior towards him; but no alteration in her relation to him, nor in his love to her, which shews him indeed, ‘Jesus, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.’ 2. That all these knocks, raps, and chastisements, were all in love; he meant it for her good, and would have her take it so: we are too apt to think, when chastised and under God’s afflicting hand, that it is in a way of wrath, and that he deals not with us as children; but when he knocks, and gives such endearing characters as these, it plainly shews that it is all in love. 3. To manifest how desirous he was of communion with her, and therefore takes all ways to obtain it; he calls and knocks, and calls again, and that in the most tender, moving language that can be. And this is not all, but, 4thly, He expostulates with her, and uses very pressing instances and powerful arguments to persuade her to open and let him in; ‘for my head,’ says he, ‘is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night:’ here, because of the great love and affection which he has for his church, and the desire he has of enjoying communion with her; here, he is represented as coming in the night, season to pay her a visit, and standing knocking at her door, and waiting so long there for an answer, until his head was filled with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night: which may be understood, either, 1. Of the doctrines and blessings of grace, which Christ came full fraught with; these being compared to dew in scripture, see Deuteronomy 32:2, Hosea 14:6, and then the sense is, ‘Behold, my love, I starts at thy door knocking, and waiting to be admitted in; I pray thee, rise and open to me, for I am come filled with the comfortable and refreshing doctrines of the gospel, and wire all the spiritual blessings of the everlasting covenant of grace, which I know are needful and proper for thee:’ So R. Sol. Jarchi, by dew, understands God’s blessings for those who turn by repentance; though by drops of the night, he thinks are meant punishments tot those who forsake and despise him. Or else, 2. These words may intend the sufferings of Christ, which I rather incline to: Thus Nebuchadnezzar’s body being wet with the dew of heaven, is expressive of the forlorn and miserable condition he was in, when being driven from men, he eat grass as oxen, and was exposed to all the inclemency of the heavens; so when Christ’s head is here said to be filled with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night, it may mean his sufferings in Ins state of humiliation, who had no where to lay his head; whose constant practice it was some time before his death, in the day time, to teach in the temple, and in the night continued praying in the mount of Olives; and that night in which he was taken, appears to be a very cold one, from Peter’s warming himself: so that there seems to be an agreement between those outward sufferings of his, and these represented in these words; though no doubt far greater than those intended here, which he underwent in his own person, on the account of his church; which may be compared to dew and drops of the night, (1.) Because of the multitude of them, the dew and drops of the night being many: Christ’s sufferings were many and various; there are the sufferings of his body and of his soul, and many of both sorts; what tongue can express, what heart can conceive what he underwent, when he bore our sins and his Father’s wrath? and because of the multitude of them, they are compared, not only to dew and drops of the night, but to floods, Psalm 69:1,2. (2.) As the dew and drops of the night are uncomfortable and prejudicial to health, especially in those hot countries; so Christ’s sufferings were uncomfortable to the human nature, as is manifest from what he said to his Father in the garden, and when upon the cross; and they would have been intolerable to any but himself. (3.) As the dew and drops of the night, though prejudicial to the health of persons, yet are very useful and fructifying to the truth; so the sufferings of Christ, though uncomfortable to the human nature, yet have produced many blessings of grace, and are the means of bringing many sons to glory; see John 12:24. Now the sum of the argument then is this; seeing I have suffered so much and so largely on this account, how canst thou be so cruel so hard-hearted, so base and disingenuous, as not to arise and let me in? so lovers sometimes represent their case in such circumstances as hardly dealt with f75 ; and know not which to call most hard and cruel, the door shut against them, or the lover within: and yet, notwithstanding such a moving and melting argument, what idle excuses does the church make to put Christ off, in the following words?

    VERSE 3. I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on?

    I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them?

    THE sleepy and lazy frame which the church had fallen into, together with Christ’s carriage and behavior towards her in that condition, has been considered in the preceding verse; and in this we have the effect which Christ calls and knocks, his melting language, and moving expostulations had upon her: all the answer he obtains from her, are only some idle excuses and frivolous shifts to put him off. Some interpreters indeed have attempted to vindicate the church from slothfulness and rudeness, and would have this ascribed to her modesty, which would not admit her to appear before so great a person in such a disagreeable dress: but if this had been the case, he would never have resented her behavior to him, as he did by withdrawing from her; he would never have suffered her to wander about the city in quest of him, as she did; nor would he have permitted the watchmen to abuse leer, as they did, by smiting, wounding, and unveiling her; nor should she have gone so long, until she was sick of love, before she found him, had net all this been to chastise her for her former slothfulness and rudeness. Nor are we to consider these words as of one asking for information sake, how she should do this and the other thing, as Being willing to comply with the request made to her, if she knew but how; for she had no desire to do it; her chief design being to keep her bed, her ease and rest, if possible; therefore, though she is not so rude as to say, that she would not arise and let him in; yet her words and actions manifestly shew that she had no design to do it, and therefore makes the excuses she does; which are to be looked upon as an absolute denial, and were so interpreted by Christ; and may be paralleled with that answer which the man gave to his friend, who came at midnight to borrow loaves of him, which, in Luke 11:7, you will find to be this, ‘Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.’ Having given you this general view of the words, I wilt now consider the parts of them, or the particular excuses that she makes. First, She says, ‘I have put off my coat,’ and from thence argues,’ how shall I put it on?’ It will be proper to consider what is meant by her putting off her coat; and also what the argument she forms upon it, or the conclusion she draws from it, intends, 1. The believer’s coat is Christ and his righteousness: his clothing is the garments of salvation, and his covering the robe of righteousness; all which he has from Christ, who is Jehovah, our righteousness; whose righteousness is the saints wedding-garment; which being made of fine linen, clean and white, and put upon them, they are clothed as with the sun; their own garments, whether of sin or righteousness, are filthy ones; in the room of which, is given to them change of raiment. Now this coat or garment of justifying righteousness, being wrought out by Christ, and brought to the soul by the Spirit of God, faith puts on, according to Romans 13:14. ‘Put on the Lord Jesus Christ,’ that is, the righteousness of Christ; which faith puts on, as a man does his clothes: and for this reason we are said to be justified by faith; not that faith, by virtue of its own, has an influence in our justification, or is a part of it; for we are no otherwise justified by it, than as it apprehends, lays hold, and puts on Christ for righteousness. Now this coat or garment being once put on, the believer can never be disrobed of it; it as an everlasting righteousness; it will never wear out, nor can it be lost, nor will it ever be taken away from him: Adam lost the righteousness in which he was created, but the believer’s can never be lost; for it is not the righteousness of a creature, but of God; those who once have on Christ’s righteousness, always have; for being once justified by it, they will always be so; nor must it he imagined, that ever a true believer will be left to despise and reject this righteousness: there is nothing dearer to him, and more valued by him than this is; he often thinks of it in himself, and frequently speaks of it to others; he desires to be always found in it, living and dying; but yet sometimes his faith may be remiss about it; may lie dormant, and be very little exercised on this glorious object: sometimes a believer is got into such a carnal, secure, and lazy frame of spirit, as the church here was, that he contents himself with the bare performance of external duties, without having his soul affected with, or his faith concerned about Christ, as the Lord his righteousness; nay, sometimes when he is not in such a frame, he is too apt to dwell upon his own heart, his graces, his frames, his duties; there is a great deal of legality sometimes in believers, and their practice runs contrary to their light and judgment. Now so far as we rest in ourselves in our duties and performances, or dwell in our graces and our frames; so far we may be said to have put off our coat, or to have laid aside and neglected the righteousness of Christ; tho’ it is certain, believers cannot be really disrobed of it; and perhaps this may be the sense of these words f77 . Or else, 2. They may intend her leaving her first love; as her faith in Christ’s righteousness was very low, so her love to Christ, his people, ways and ordinances, was very cold; there is such a thing as leaving, though not losing our first love, for which the church at Ephesus was blamed, Revelation 2:4, now when saints are in the exercise of this grace of love to Christ or his people, they may be said to put it on, as the apostle exhorts, in Colossians 3:14. ‘And above all these things, put on charity, or love, which is the bond of perfectness,’ and when they grow remiss and cold in it, they may be said to put it off. 3. These words may also represent her neglect of her duty; for she had not only dropped in a great measure the exercise of grace, but likewise the performance of duty; she was grown slothful and inactive; she had put off her clothes, as having done working, and therefore takes to her bed, and composes herself to rest: thus, as a performance of duties may be called a putting of them on; see Colossians 3:12, so a neglect of them may be called a putting of them off; which Eliphaz, in Job 15:4. calls a casting off fear before God; for he intends thereby a disregard to religious exercises, which he supposed Job chargeable with. 4. These words manifestly shew, that she was in a sleepy, drowsy frame; had put off her clothes, and was gone to bed; that she was now off her guard, and had dropped her spiritual watchfulness: thus, as putting and keeping on of clothes is a sign of watchfulness; see Nehemiah 4:23, Revelation 16:15, so putting them off is an indication of the contrary; and she having done so, is not only exposed to danger, but to shame, disgrace, and scandal. 5. Being now free from troubles, afflictions and persecutions, she puts off her coat, and betakes herself to a bed of cage; and though Christ calls, yet she is unwilling to arise and go along with him, lest she should meet with the same trials and sufferings as before, for the sake of him and his gospel; so much does the love of worldly ease prevail over God’s own children, that they are sometimes loth to arise and follow Christ in his own ways. Now from hence she argues, and thus she concludes, that seeing she had put off her coat, how should she put it on? Which discovers, (1.) That she was apprehensive of difficulty in doing it, ‘How shall I etc. that is, how difficult will it be for me to do it?’ and indeed it is easier dropping, the exercise of a grace, or the performance of a duty, than it is to take it up again after we have so done; and when grace is called to exert itself, or a duty is presented to be performed, carnal reason raises a thousand difficulties as insuperable, which faith only gets over. (2.) This way of arguing shews her sluggishness, and her love of ease; a sluggard thinks there is danger if he arises and goes into the streets, saying, ‘There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets;’ and he is so wretchedly slothful, that having ‘hid his hand in his bosom, it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth:’ so she, having put off her coat, was so exceeding slothful and sluggish, that she was loth, it grieved her, it went to her very heart, she did not know how to bring herself to it, to put it on again. (3). Nay there was not only a lothness, but an aversion to it; the carnal and fleshly part in the believer is entirely averse, either to the exercise of grace, or to the discharge of duty; it lusteth against the spirit; though there is a willingness in the regenerate part thereunto, for he delights in the law of God, after the inward man: but the former seems to have the ascendant in the church here, which makes her say, ‘How shall I, etc.’ I am averse unto it. (4.) It intimates as though she thought it unreasonable in him to desire it, seeing her clothes were off, and she was now in bed; for him to desire her to arise and open, and let him in, was, what she thought, an unreasonable request, and therefore says, ‘How shall I put it on?’ that is, How canst thou desire it of me? though this which Christ called her to, and indeed, had it been much more difficult than it was, but her reasonable service. (5.) It supposes that she was apprehensive of danger by doing it; that it would be incommodious and detrimental to her, break her rest, disturb her ease, and be prejudicial to her health; there being danger of it, as she imagined, by rising out of her bed, and putting on her clothes to let him in. Now arguments taken from, and formed upon such selfish principles, are much made use of by carnal reason, and are pleaded with a great deal of force and vehemence by it, against the observance of an ordinance or performance of a duty: it was upon this foot that those who were bidden to the wedding, excused themselves; it was against their worldly profit and pleasure to comply with the invitation; one had bought a piece of ground, another, five yoke of oxen, and a third had married a wife, and therefore they could not come; and in so doing, declared that they valued their worldly interest before the blessings of grace in Christ; as the church here in saying, ‘How shall I put it on?’ shews, that she preferred her worldly ease to Christ’s company, and that she sought more her ‘own things, than the things which are Jesus Christ’s.’ (6.) It may also signify that she knew not how to do it, because of that shame and confusion which attended her on the account of her sins and transgressions against him; being conscious to herself of these things she blushed and was ashamed, not knowing how to shew her face, and appear before him with any confidence, and therefore puts him off with these excuses; and so it oftentimes with believers, who, when they have fallen into sin neglect their duty through shame, and so add sin to sin, as the. church did here: and this sense the Targum gives of this part of the words after this manner: ‘The congregation of Israel answered and said before the prophets, Lo, now I have removed from me the yoke of his precepts, and have served the idols of the people; and how can I have the face to return unto him?’ though it makes the latter part of the text to be, not the words of the church, but of the Lord; who makes answer to her, and lets her know, that as he had removed his divine presence from her, because of her sins, how should he return to her again? Which other part of the words come now to be considered.

    Secondly, She urges that she had washed her feet; and therefore how could she ‘defile them.’ Washing of feet was a custom much used in the eastern countries, where they wore not shoes, but sandals, and therefore contracted a great deal of soil, especially in travelling, after which it was usual to wash them; which not only removed the filth from them, but much comforted and refreshed them: instances of this we have in Abraham and Lot, who desired that water might be brought to wash the feet of the angels, whom they thought to be men, also in Abraham’s servant, in Joseph’s brethren, and in Christ’s washing the feet of his disciples a little before his death: washing of feet was also used before going to bed f78 , which is what is here referred to. Now this is to be understood, not of the washing of regeneration, with which no doubt she was washed, being Christ’s spouse and bride, as well as washed in his blood; for that is the work of the spirit of God, in his mighty operations of his grace upon her; but this appears to be something of her own doing, ‘I have washed my feet, etc.’ nor is it meant of the purity of her outward conversation; though feet and walking, when applied to the saints, do in a spiritual sense, intend this oftentimes, but it does not intend it here; for her outward conversation does not appear to be so clean and pure, and so becoming the gospel, and her profession of it, as it should be. But, 1. It may be observed, that she had plucked off her shoes or sandals, which are the gospel, and a conversation agreeable to it, according to Ephesians 6:15. ‘And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.’ Now when the believer’s feet are shod thus, that is, when he holds ‘the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience,’ then may it be said of him, as in chapter <220701> 7:1. ‘How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O princes daughter!’ but now the church here had plucked off hers, in order to wash her feet; that is, she was grown very careless about the doctrines of the gospel, and very negligent in keeping up a conversation answerable to them. 2. This phrase shows that she was grown weary of spiritual exercises, so persons when they are weary of work or travelling, used to wash their feet, and go to rest. She was grown weary of well-doing, and was much like those in Malachi 1:13, who said, in regard to the performance of religious exercises, ‘Behold, what a weariness is it!’ and therefore washes her feet, lays aside an observance of ordinances and duties, and betakes herself to her carnal ease and rest; and being called from thence, she argues, ‘I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them;’ which intimates as before, a lothness, an aversion to it; and as though she thought it unreasonable in him to desire it, and criminal in her to comply with it.

    Where observe her wretched mistake, in imagining that hearkening to, and obeying Christ’s commands, would be a defiling her; and it also shews us what poor, little trifling excuses, persons in such a condition will make, to keep themselves in their carnal ease and peace, in a state of slothfulness and inactivity; nay, these excuses of hers were not only idle and frivolous, as the putting on of her coat, and defiling her feet, but likewise vile and sinful, as will appear from the following considerations. (1.) She had slighted the means which Christ had made use of to awake her; she had made them null and void, and of no effect; he had called to her by the ministry of the word, and had knocked in a providential way, and yet to no purpose; she withstands both his knocks and calls, which must needs be an aggravation of her sin. (2.) She sinned against light and knowledge; she knew that it was the voice of her beloved that called unto her, and acknowledges it to be so; and yet she sleeps on, and makes these idle excuses as she does, which must needs increase her guilt. (3.) She had invited him to come but a little before, as in chapter 4:16. ‘Let my beloved come into his garden;’ accordingly he did come; and as soon as he was come, she falls asleep, and treats him after this base and disingenuous manner. (4.) She had purposely composed herself to sleep; it does not seem to have fallen upon her at an unawares; but she as it were sought it, and for this reason put off her coat, and washed her feet, that she might be the more fit for rest, and take it more easily. (5.) Yet she endeavors to shift the blame from off herself, as if she was no ways in the fault, but that the thing was either difficult and unreasonable, or else unlawful to be done; and therefore she says, ‘How shall I, etc.’ (6.) She appears in all this to be guilty of the greatest ingratitude; she fell into this sleepy and lazy frame after this and a noble entertainment and sumptuous feast that Christ had made for her; she continues herein, notwithstanding the most affectionate characters he gives her, and the most powerful arguments he uses with her; she sleeps on, though he lets her know that his ‘head was filled with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night:’ though he had suffered and undergone so much on her account, yet, O vile ingratitude! she is unwilling to be at the trouble of putting on a coat on his account, or to run the risk of defiling her feet for his sake. (7.) She also discovers the highest folly, in that she prefers her present ease to Christ’s company. Well, but how does Christ take this? how can he bear to be affronted after this rate? Does he not highly resent it? Yes; but this will farther appear in the consideration of the following verses.

    VERSE 4. My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.

    THE church proceeds here to give an account of some farther steps which Christ took in order to awake her, and cause her to arise and open to him; which, though they are instants of his grace unto her, yet manifestly shew how much he resented her unkindness and ingratitude to him! and she also takes notice what influence this carriage of his towards her had upon her.

    In these words we have, I. The method which Christ took in order to have entrance; he ‘put in his hand by the hole of the door.’

    II. The effect it had upon her; her ‘bowels were moved for him.’

    I. The method which Christ took to let himself in. Seeing she was so loth and so unwilling to arise and open to him, he attempts it himself; not by breaking open the door, but by putting in his hand by the hole thereof, in order to remove the bolt or bar which kept him from entering in. Some read the words, ‘My beloved put down his hand from the hole of the door, or lock;’ that is, withdrew or removed his hand from thence: he put it in there for the aforesaid reason; but hearing such language from within, as in the preceding verse, ‘I have put off my coat,’ etc. he desisted from his attempt, and went his way; resolving to chastise her for her base usage of him, by a departure from her; which, when she understood, it threw her into that concern of mind, which appears in this verse; and also put her upon taking those methods to find him, which the following verses shew she did. But I shall consider the words according to our version or them, ‘My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door;’ and then, not to take any notice of the character which she gives him, ‘My beloved,’ which has been often considered and explained; I shall inquire, 1st, What is meant by the door. 2dly, What by the hole of the door. 3dly, What the hand of Christ signifies. 4thly, What the putting of it in is expressive of. 1st, It will be proper to inquire what is meant by the door. There are several things in scripture which bear this name, in a figurative and metaphorical sense; as Christ, the church, an occasion or opportunity of preaching the gospel, John 10:9- Song of Solomon 8:9, Corinthians 16:9, etc. none of which can be intended here. A Jewish writer thinks, that the firmament is here meant, and that God put forth his hand from thence; perhaps either in a threatening way, or by inflicting some chastisement on the people of Israel, for their slothfulness and neglect of building the second temple: but by the door here, I apprehend we are to understand, either the door of faith, of which we read in Acts 14:27. ‘And when they were come,’ that is, ‘Paul and Barnabas, to Antioch, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the doer of faith unto the Gentiles;’ which must be understood, either of the preaching of the doctrine of faith among them, or of the implantation of faith in them, and perhaps both are intended: all by nature, whether elect or non-elect, are shut and locked up fast in the prison of unbelief; and when God comes to convert a sinner, he opens the door of faith, and sets them at liberty; though. sometimes this door of faith, even afterwards, is so closely shut up, as that there is only a little crevice, a small hole, through which a little love breaks forth from the soul to Christ, and a little light breaks in from Christ unto the soul; which seems to be the case of the church here, and is what Heman the Ezrahite complains of, in Psalm 88:8, when he says, ‘I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.’ Or else, by the door, may be meant the door of her heart, which was in a great measure shut against Christ, through weakness, and the prevailings of corruptions in her: thus Lydia’s heart is compared to a door, which was opened by the hand of powerful and efficacious grace; by the means of which, Christ, with his large train of grace, were let in, of whom it is said, Psalm 24:7-10, ‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;’ which are not to be understood of the doors and gates of the temple, though perhaps there may be an allusion to them, but of souls which are of an everlasting make; and the king of glory shall come in: Who is this king of glory? the Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory; even the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who is glorious in his person, in his offices, and in his saints; and who demands an entrance into, takes possession of, and dwells by faith in the hearts of his people. The door then is either the door of faith, or the door of her heart; or if we put them both together, and say, it is faith in her heart here meant, I cannot see that it will be amiss, ut, 2dly, What is meant by the hole of the door, is our next enquiry. The word door is not in the Hebrew text; therefore some interpret it the hole of the window or casement, others of the lock; but it seems rather to be of the door: this hole was either in the door, or hard by it, so R. Solomon Jarchi thinks; or else was between the two leaves or foldings of the door, according to R. Aben Ezra; but however, it is the mystical and spiritual sense which we are chiefly concerned about. And having interpreted the door, of her heart, or of faith in her heart; and there being but a small hole in this door, through which Christ put his hand, it lets us know that her heart was much narrowed and straitened; her faith was very low in its exercise on Christ, which sometimes is an open door to receive him; but now was but as an hole, through which but little light was let in from Christ, and but little love returned to him; her affections were chilly and cold, which used to be enlarged with fervency unto him; her obedience to him was but very small, not attended with that cheerfulness and spirit of liberty, as heretofore; which seems to be the case of David, when he says, <19B932> Psalm 119:32, ‘I will run the ways of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge nay heart;’ his heart was then narrowed, and he was shut up in his own soul; there were not that cheerfulness and liberty, that warmth and zeal, that liveliness and sprightliness, which he had sometimes experienced, in his obedience to the divine commands: and this no doubt was the church’s case here; but there being a hole open, though perhaps but a small one, yet it shows, that her heart was not entirely closed and shut up; it cannot be said of her, that there were in her no faith in Christ, no love to him, no fear of him; for grace, once implanted, can never be lost; though it is not always in exercise, an motion, yet it is always in being: and herein lies the difference between a regenerate and an unregenerate man; the one has his heart entirely closed and shut up against Christ; there is not a crevice, a cranny open to Christ; but the other, though his heart may be much closed and shut up, yet there is always an entrance, though sometimes but a small one, for him: but you will say, Why then does Christ say, in verse 2, ‘Open to me, my sister, my love?’ etc. I answer, Because he found the entrance into her heart was not so wide, so open and so free, as it had heretofore been; and though he knew she was no more able to widen and enlarge her heart, and open it to him, than she was at first conversion; yet, to bring her under a conviction of her present state, he thus calls to her: no, this work is his alone; he alone can enlarge the heart, and make it wide enough for himself to enter in at; he has a key that can open this door, when he pleases, even the key of David, with which he openeth, and no man shutteth, and shutteth, and no man openeth, But I proceed, 3dly, To shew what is meant by the hand of Christ, which he puts in by the hole of this door: and this I take to be his mighty, powerful, and efficacious grace; and so the word is used in Acts 11:21. ‘And the hand of the Lord was with them; and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord.’ The reason why the ministry of the apostles was so much owned for the conversion of souls, was, because it was attended with the mighty and efficacious grace of Christ; it was the want of this Isaiah complained of, when he said, Isaiah 53:1. ‘Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?’ If the ministry of any is made useful for the good of souls, it is because this arm is revealed, and this hand is put forth; and the ministers of Christ are willing to ascribe it to that, and not to themselves; and can freely join with the apostle Paul, in saying, ‘Not I, but the grace of God which was with me;’ and without this hand, all the means of orate are ineffectual; but this can turn the key and open the door of any heart, though never so closely shut, and strongly barred and bolted against Christ: now the same mighty and efficacious grace is equally exerted and put forth in the awaking of a drowsy same, reclaiming a backsliding professor, and quickening him to his duty, as in the conversion of a sinner, dead in trespasses and sins. Which brings me to consider, 4thly , What is meant by Christ’s putting in his hand of mighty and efficacious grace, by the hole of the door. Now this intends the exertion and application of grace to the hearts of believers, which influence and quicken, support and maintain grace in them; this is an internal work, and differs from all the other methods which Christ took with her, and appears To be more powerful than any of them; he had called in the external ministry of the word, and knocked in a providential war, by inflicting some chastisement upon her; he had given her good words, expostulated with her, and used persuasive arguments, and yet to no purpose: but now he puts in his hand of mighty grace, and the work is done; which hand moves secretly and invisibly, and yet powerfully and irresistibly; for ‘none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?’ though it uses no force or compulsion, but works sweetly and kindly upon the heart; for how unwilling and doth soever the church was before to arise and open to Christ, now she is entirely willing to do it; and that not through force or feat’, but out of a real affection for him, and love to him. Christ now, in putting in his hand, and thus powerfully and sweetly working upon her heart, shows, 1. The exceeding greatness of his love and grace unto her: that though she had treated him in so rude a manner, and discovered so much dis-ingenuity and ingratitude to him, which made him take up a resolution to depart from her; yet he would not leave her without giving some evidences of his love to her, without putting in his hand, and leaving some myrrh upon the lock, and sweet-smelling myrrh on the handles thereof. 2. His faithfulness to her: Christ never wholly and entirely leaves his people; he has promised that he will not, and he is faithful to this promise; Christ may so withdraw himself from them, as that they may not have sensible communion with him; but their union to him remains firm and indissoluble; they may think that he has totally and finally left them, when he has not, nor never will: he departs here from the church, but it was not a total departure; for he put in his hand by the hole of the door, and left something there, which stirred up her affections to him, and put her upon a diligent search and inquiry after him. 3. His power: What is it that the hand of Christ cannot do? what the external calls of the ministry, the knocks and raps of persecution, what good words and moving arguments could not de, that is done in a moment by Christ’s putting in his hand; she lay still before, and put him off with idle excuses, but now she arises and opens to him. Which leads me to consider, II. The effect of this, or what influence this had upon her heart; her bowels, she says, were moved for him: which is expressive, either, First, Of that sorrow and grief which then possessed her heart. The word is used in Jeremiah 4:19, Lamentations 1:20, to express grief and sorrow; and indeed, it is no wonder that it should be so with her, when she began to be capable of revolving things in her mind, and comparing her carriage and his together; observing the baseness and dis-ingenuity there were in the one, and the exceeding greatness of love and tenderness in the other. The words have a double reading in the Hebrew text: some copies read, ‘my bowels were moved ylx in me, or for me;’ and this reading the jewish commentators follow, particularly R. Solomon Jarchi, and so do Junius rand Tremellius, the Tigurine version, and that of Pagnine’s: other copies read, ‘my bowels were moved wilx for him;’ which, by Mercer, is esteemed the best and most correct reading, and is followed by our and other translators. If we read the words in the first way, they will afford us these two observations: 1. That her grief and sorrow was inward, and so real and sincere; her bowels moved within her; and such a sorrow as this is what is required, regarded and approved of by God; ‘Thou desirest truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part thou wilt make me to know wisdom,’ says David, Psalm 51:6, for it is not a shedding of tears, nor rending of garments, but a heart broken under a sense of sin, and melted down with the discoveries of boundless love, that is an acceptable sacrifice with God through Christ. 2. That her own sin and unkindness to Christ was the cause of all this; my bowels were moved for me, or concerning myself: for what I had done, and had been guilty of, I have none to blame but myself; I am the sole author of all this trouble to myself; my own sin and wickedness has brought all this upon me; O! it pains me, it cuts me to the very heart, to think that I should use the best of husbands so unkindly, and treat him after so base a rate as I have done!

    But then if we follow the second reading, it will lead us to make the remarks following: (1.) That sin, as committed against Christ, was the chief and principle cause of her trouble and sorrow; ‘my bowels were moved for him,’ because I had sinned against him; had it been another, it would not have grieved me so much; but against thee, thee only have I sinned; which shows her repentance to be right, and her sorrow to be true and genuine. (2.) That the sufferings of Christ, occasioned by her sins and transgressions, influenced her sorrow; my bowels were moved for him; it grieves me, I am pained at the very heart, to think that my beloved’s head should be wet with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night, through me; that he should suffer so much upon my account, and for my sake: now when repentance springs from faith’s viewing a crucified and suffering Christ, it appears to be evangelical; see Zechariah 12:10. (3.) That her frustrating the means which Christ made use of, added to her grief: Did my beloved call and knock, and call again? and did I know that it was the voice of my beloved? Did he give me good words, expostulate and argue with me in the most moving and tender manner? and yet, vile and ungrateful wretch that I am, did I lie still, and not move to open and let him in? could he get nothing from me but mere shifts and evasions? O! how does the consideration of all this overwhelm me with grief and sorrow? (4.) That the loss of his company was also an ingredient herein; for, as Christ’s company and presence fill the believer with the greatest joy, so his absence and departure from him give him the greatest uneasiness: ‘Thou didst hide thy face,’ says David, Psalm 30:7, and I was troubled; so here, her bowels moved, her soul was grieved, not only for what she had done unto him; but also for the loss of him. Or else, these words, ‘my bowels were moved for him,’ are expressive, Secondly, Of the moving and stirring of her affections to him, in which sense the word is used in Isaiah 63:15, Philemon 12, for though her affections had been chill, and her love to Christ cold, yet they were not lost; Christ’s putting in his hand, stirred up the coals of love, which ‘many waters cannot quench;’ so that they began to kindle and appear in flames: for not only the grace was in her heart, but in exercise, in motion there, ‘my bowels moved,’ etc. so that she could say, after all her sleepiness, slothfulness, negligence in duty, and base carriage towards Christ, as Peter, after his backslidings, ‘Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee :’ this love of hers was real, hearty and sincere; it was not the moving of her lips or tongue, but of her bowels within her; she loved ‘not in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and truth;’ and this her actions testify, which are recorded in the following verses.

    VERSE 5.

    I rose up to open to my beloved, and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet, smelling, myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.

    IN these words the church gives an account of a second and a third effect of Christ’s ‘putting in his hand by the hole of the door.’

    I. She ‘rose to open to him’. II. Having done so, she laid hold on the ‘handles of the lock,’ in order to draw it back; and before she proceeds to take notice of any other steps she took, with the success thereof, she stops to give an account of a sweet piece of experience she met with, when she put her hands ‘upon the handles of the lock; My hands, says she, dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet-swelling myrrh.’

    I. She says, that she ‘rose to open to her beloved.’ This is opposed to her former slothfulness and sleepiness; before she lay still and slept on, notwithstanding Christ’s calls and knocks, his melting words and moving language; but now being touched by his hand of mighty and powerful grace, she shakes off her sluggishness, and arises to open to him, which is more than a mere resolution to do it; such an one as she made in chapter 3:2, and the prodigal in Luke 15:18. Now these resolutions were made in the strength of grace; and being assisted by divine grace to perform them, were quickly put in execution; though otherwise, resolutions made in our own strength, are seldom or never made good: but this was more than a mere resolution, it was an actual performance of it; not but that she resolved no doubt in her mind, to do it before she did it; but the dispatch was so quick, and there being so little time between the making and the execution of it, she had neither leisure nor room to regard it; ‘I rose to open to my beloved;’ which act of hers shows, 1. That her design and intention to open to Christ, was real and hearty: had she lain upon her bed, and made ever such fair promises, that she would arise and open to him, and yet have kept her bed and slept on; there would have been but very little proof that she really and heartily designed it; but her rising in order to it, is a full indication of it; even as Abraham’s rising up early, saddling his asses taking his own and only son Isaac with him, and going to the place which the Lord directed him to; his putting the wood in order, binding his son, and laying him upon it; his taking the knife, and stretching out his hand to slay his son, manifestly showed that he really intended to obey the divine command, though so disagreeable to flesh and blood. 2. That her concern at her base and unbecoming carriage to him was sincere and unfeigned; the effects show that her sorrow was of a godly sort; seeing it wrought in her carefulness to obey his will, zeal for his honor and glory, fear and reverence of his person, a vehement desire after the enjoyment of his presence and company, and an indignation at her own sin and folly; see 2 Corinthians 7:10,11. The repentance appears to be true and genuine, because it brought forth ‘fruits meet for it.’ 3. That she did not stay to confer with flesh and blood, but immediately arose, as soon as touched by the hand of mighty grace; had she done so, she would have argued thus with herself, ‘yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep,’ and then I will arise and open to him; no, for though she put him off before with idle excuses, having consulted her own carnal ease; yet now, being under the influence of powerful grace, she cannot defer it any longer, but without delay, uses to open to him. 4. That when a soul, in such a case as hers, is made sensible of it, it cannot rest easy upon a bed of carnal security; it may, with David, for a time be senseless, stupid, and unconcerned; and with Jonah, lie fast asleep in the sides of the ship, careless, thoughtless, and unconcerned; yet when awaked from hence, anguish and distress seize it; and it cannot be easy without some returning visits of love, some views of Christ’s person, and some enjoy, merit of his presence; and therefore will arise and go out in quest of him: and now no difficulties discourage such a soul, as none did the church; when, she was upon her bed of ease, every little thing was difficult to her; her language was that of the sluggard’s, ‘There is a lion in the way, a lion is in the streets;’ it was then a trouble to her to put on her coat, and an intolerable hardship to defile her feet; but now neither the one nor the other hinder her; but she rises, opens, and ventures herself alone in the streets, runs among the watchmen of the city, and keepers of the walls. and from thence to the daughters of Jerusalem, to inquire of her beloved. 5. It also supposes that she thought Christ still at the door; though no sooner had he put in his hand, but he was gone, being willing to let her know, though he loved her, yet he resented her carriage to him, and here we may observe, that God’s children may he mistaken sometimes about the presence of Christ; sometimes he is present with them and they know it not, as, Jacob said, Genesis 28:16, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not;’ and at other times, when they are got into such careless, secure, and unconcerned frames of soul, like Samson, the Lord is departed from them, and they wist not, that is, know not that the Lord is departed from them. 6. This shows the power of mighty and efficacious grace, and that she was under the influence of it; though perhaps the spirit was willing before, yet the flesh was weak; though she might have a will to open to Christ, yet how to perform it she knew not; though indeed her will seemed to be very indifferent about it; there appeared a lothness in her, and a kind of unwillingness to it; but now she is made both able and ‘willing in the day of his power,’ to arise and open to him.

    II. Having rose to open to Christ, she puts her hand ‘upon the handles of the lock,’ to draw it back, and let him in; which, in order, is the third effect of Christ’s ‘putting in his hand by the hole of the door.’ Now though this is not in so many words expressed in the text, yet it is manifestly implied; for if her ‘hands dropped with myrrh, and her fingers with sweet-smelling myrrh upon the handles of the lock;’ it then supposes, that her hands and fingers must first lay hold upon the lock-handles, which was also absolutely necessary to do, in order to open the door. It will be proper here to consider, 1st, What we are to understand by the lock, and the handles of it. 2dly, What by her hands and fingers, which laid hold on these handles to draw back the lock, and in what sense they might do it. 1st, It is needful to inquire what may be meant by the lock, and the handles of it: and as by the door, I suppose is meant the heart of a believer, so by the lock, which fastens and keeps this door shut, may be meant unbelief; by which, as all by nature are locked and shut up in the state they are; so believers sometimes by it are so straitened, confined, and shut up in their souls, that they cannot come forth in the free exercise of faith, in which they are at other times found: and the handles of this lock may be lukewarmness and indifference of soul with regard to duty, a sluggishness and lothness to come to it, which oftentimes bring the soul at last to a neglect of it; for, first, persons grow indifferent about the performance of duties, or attendance on ordinances; do not care whether they perform them, or attend on them, or no; then they begin to be ‘slothful in business, not serving the Lord’ with that fervency of Spirit which they have heretofore done; and at last wholly neglect them; which brings them into a carnal, secure and unconcerned frame of spirit; and all this strengthens unbelief, and keeps the door the closer shut against Christ; which seems to have been the case of the church here, and of that of Laodicea, in Revelation 3, when Christ stood at her door and knocked. 2dly, By her hands and fingers may be meant her faith in its exercise and operation, attended with the fruits thereof. Faith is usually represented in scripture as the hand of the soul by which it receives Christ, as the Father’s free gift; embraces him as the only Savior; lays hold upon and retains him, as he stands in all the endearing characters and relations which he appears in to his own people, Now this faith is not idle and inactive, but ‘works by love’ to Christ and his people, to his ways and ordinances; it has its fruits, and is attended with the performance of good works,, and will put the person that is possessed of it, on the discharge of his duty; it put the church here upon attempting to draw back the lock of unbelief; faith laid its hands and fingers upon the handles of it, and used all its might, power and diligence to do it: but it may be asked, How could the church be able, with all her faith, industry and diligence, to draw back this lock? I answer, Faith cannot do this of itself; unbelief is a ‘sin which easily besets us,’ but it is not so easily got rid of; it is a weight, that the hand of faith of itself, cannot lift and lay aside; the believer must say, even in the exercise of faith, with the poor man in the gospel, Mark 9:24. ‘Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief;’ this lock. grows too hard for faith to draw it back of itself; but yet faith’s looking to, and dealing with Christ’s person, blood, and righteousness, much weakens unbelief. When an unbelieving Thomas was indulged with a sight of Christ’s pierced hands and feet, and was enabled to thrust his hand into his side; his unbelief immediately vanished and disappeared, and he could say, ‘My Lord, and my God:’ it is certain, that the stronger faith grows, lukewarmness, indolence, and carnal security decay; and the soul is quickened, stirred up, and put upon the performance of duty: and what is it that a soul is not enabled, to do in the exercise of faith? difficulties which are insuperable to carnal sense and reason, are got over by faith; read ever the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, and you will see what heroic acts have been performed by faith though the strength in which these things have been performed, did not arise from the grace itself, but from Christ, the object of it, whose ‘strength is made in faith’s weakness;’ for without him we can do nothing, but his ‘grace is sufficient to enable us to do all things.’

    Now before she proceeds to tell how she succeeded in this attempt: she gives an account of a piece of sweet experience she met with, whilst she was trying to draw back the lock; ‘my hands,’ says she, ‘dropped with myrrh, and my fingers, with sweet-smelling myrrh upon the handles of the lock.’ By myrrh, is meant grace, in its aboundings and overflowings: but it may be inquired, From whence this myrrh came, and by whom it was brought? If we understand it of the church’s myrrh or grace, as brought here by herself, as some think f81 ; who may be represented as taking up a pot of myrrh, intending with it to anoint end refresh his head which was wet with dew; which she either unawares or else designedly broke; or else, being :in a panic fear, her hand shook, and the myrrh ran over her hands and fingers; or rather, not having time to perfume her garments with it, as was usual, see Psalm 45:8, she dipped her fingers in a pot of myrrh, to ingratiate and render herself acceptable to her beloved; supposing that he might be full of resentment on the account of her carriage and behavior towards him: and then taking it in this sense, it will teach us these things following; 1. That her grace was now in exercise, it was flowing; this oil of myrrh before was as it were congealed; but now it is become liquid; it is upon the flow, and flows in such abundance, that it ran off her hands and lingers upon the handles of the lock. 2. Her hands and fingers, dropping with it, show that these actions and good works of hers, intended by her hands and fingers, being performed in faith, were odorous and grateful to Christ: so the prayers of the saints are called odors, in Revelation 5:8, and some mean and small services of the Philippians, are called an odor of a sweet smell, Philippians 4:18. 3. That When grace is in exercise, duty is both easy and pleasant: Christ’s commands then are not grievous, but his ‘ways are ways of pleasantness, and his paths, paths of peace:’ before, nothing more unpleasant than to arise and open to him; but now, nothing more easy and delightful; her ‘hands drop with myrrh;’ etc. But I rather think, that the myrrh or grace of Christ is here meant, which was brought and left here by him; when he ‘put in his hand by the hole of the door,’ he then put in this myrrh he had gathered, verse 1, and left it in the lock-hole; which she found in such abundance when she came to open, that her hands and fingers dropped with it: the allusion seems to be to lovers shut out, who used to cover the threshold of the door with flowers, and anoint the door-posts with sweetsmelling ointment. Taking the words in this sense, we may observe that grace is called so, (1.) For the preciousness of it; myrrh is a precious spice, and one of the principal spices; and this in the text is the best of myrrh, there was a sort of myrrh called odoraria, sweet-smelling f83 : the word translated ‘sweet-smelling myrrh,’ signifies ‘passing or current myrrh;’ it being vendible or saleable, not in the least damaged, but what will pass; and so is in the same sense current, as money is said to be, Genesis 23:16, or else, it is called ‘passing myrrh,’ because it diffuses its odor on every side; so R. Solomon Jarchi thinks: or, rather because it is that myrrh which bleeds or weeps, or drops from the tree of itself, which is always esteemed the best myrrh: and this sets forth the exceeding preciousness of Christ’s grace, which is more valuable than all things else. (2.) It sets forth the abundance of it: if there was such an abundance of it brought by Christ, and left in the lock-hole, so that it ran in such plenty over her hands and fingers, as to drop from thence; What an abundance? what an overflow of it must there be in himself, who is ‘full of grace and truth?’ if there is a super-abounding of grace in those in whom sin has abounded; What an overflowing fullness of it must there be in him, in whom is no sin, and who is the fountain from whence all grace flows, and is communicated to his people? (3.) It is expressive of the odorousness of it: there is such a sweet savor in the grace of Christ, as it is in himself, that the love of the virgins is drawn forth to him by it; and it emits so fragrant an odor, as it is in believers, that Christ himself is delighted with it; see Song of Solomon 1:3, and 4:10.

    Moreover, seeing it appears that this myrrh was brought unto, and left in the lock-hole by Christ; it may be asked, for what purpose it was brought and left there? which was, (1.) To draw and allure her heart unto him: the same grace that draws a soul to Christ at first conversion, draws it to him when it has declined and back-slidden from him; Christ uses the same methods, and puts forth the same grace at one time as at the other; he draws ‘with the cords of love, and bands of a man.’ (2.) To supple and soften her hard heart, and make this rusty lock go easy: this oil of myrrh being left there, removed the hardness of her heart, the stiffness of her will, and the rustiness of her affections; this melted her hard heart, made her stubborn will pliable, set her affections on the flow, her faith in exercise, and made the lock of unbelief draw back more easy. (3.) To exercise and stir up her grace; it is Christ’s grace, manifested and applied unto us, that excites ours; it is his love ‘shed abroad in our hearts by his Spirit,’ that raises ours; for ‘we love him, because he first loved us.’ Now all these ends were answered hereby; it was this grace, this myrrh, left in the handles of the lock, that fetched her off her bed, that softened the hardness of her heart and affections to him, that removed the bars and bolts that kept him out, and drew forth her grace into exercise.

    Again, the church’s hands and fingers being said to drop with myrrh, which Christ had put into the lock-hole, shows, 1. That all the grace, all the myrrh, that a believer has, comes from Christ; it is from ‘his fullness we receive grace for grace,’ that is, all sorts of grace. 2. That a believer has most reason to expect a larger measure of grace from Christ, when he is in the way of his duty; whilst the church was sluggish and slothful, negligent of her duty, and taking her ease upon a bed of security, there is no mention of the flowings of this myrrh into her or upon her; but now she is up, and in the way of her duty, her hands drop with myrrh, and her fingers with sweet-smelling myrrh:’ not that our duties are deserving of any thing at Christ’s hands, much less such large measures and over-flowings of grace as these; yet Christ has been graciously pleased, for an encouragement, to grant the promise of his presence, and the communications of his grace to us, when found in the way of our duty, though not for the performance of it. How the church succeeded in this attempt of hers, in opening the door, may be seen in the following words.

    VERSE 6.

    I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.

    IN these words are, I. A fourth and last effect of Christ’s ‘putting in his hand by the hole of the door;’ she opened to him.

    II. The wretched disappointment she had met with; he ‘had withdrawn himself, and was gone.’ III. What effect this disappointment had upon her; her soul failed when he spake.

    IV. Her endeavors to find her lost spouse.

    I. Here is a fourth and last effect of Christ’s ‘putting in his hand by the hole of the door,’ which is the exertion of his mighty and efficacious grace, ‘I opened to my beloved.’ This was what her beloved desired of her, and called for, in verse 2, and which was his principal end in exerting the power of his grace. Now this opening to him, is to be understood of the exercise of her faith, by which her heart was enlarged and dilated to receive Christ: faith is the eye, the ear, the mouth and hand of the soul; faith’s eye being opened, sees the beauties and glories of Christ’s person, and spies wondrous things in his gospel; its ear being open to discipline, listens to what Christ says in his promises and commands, and takes in the comfort of the one, and carefully observes the other; its mouth being opened, speaks of the promises of Christ, the glory of his person, office and undertakings; and its hand being opened, receives and embraces him, opens the door, and lets him in. From this act of the church, in opening to her beloved, may be observed, 1. That Christ had not only wrought in her a will, but had also given her a power to open to him; once she seemed to have but little inclination; her will did not seem so very free, being overpowered with sleep and sloth; and if her spirit was willing, yet it appears manifest that the flesh was weak; if she had a will to open, how to do it she knew not; but now, as by her rising off her bed, coming to the door, and putting her hands and fingers upon the handles of the lock, in order to draw it back, she showed that Christ had wrought in her to will; so by her actual opening to him, she made it appear that he had also wrought in her ‘to do of his good pleasure.’ 2. That she being assisted in this act by the mighty grace of Christ, is said to do that which is sometimes ascribed to God himself; thus in Acts 16:14, the Lord is said to open the heart of Lydia: it is true, there is a great difference between the opening of a sinner’s heart at conversion, which is entirely shut against Christ; and the opening of a believer’s, which is in part only shut and closed through unbelief, negligence, and carnal security: in the one, there were no principles of grace, previous to the opening of it; but in the other there are, though they lie dormant, and are not in exercise; but yet a believer, without the grace and power of Christ, can no more open his heart to him, when in such a case, than he could at first conversion: this work is attended with difficulties insuperable without the strength of Christ; therefore, whilst on her bed, she thought it impossible for her to do it, and unreasonable in him to desire it; till he put in his hand, and left such an abundance of the sweet-smelling myrrh of his grace, by which being assisted, she is said to do it. 3. That the heart of a believer is only patent and open to the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘I opened to my beloved;’ though it is sometimes, an a great measure, dosed and shut unto him; yet when it is opened, it is only opened to him; he is the only object of a believer’s faith and love: the church here did not open to strangers, only to her beloved, being espoused as a chaste virgin’ to him; therefore, in chapter 4:12, she is said to be ‘a garden inclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.’ 4. Her opening to Christ, supposes that she thought Christ still at the door; so she did when she got off her bed to open to him; and so she did when she put her hands upon the handles of the lock; and perhaps was more confirmed in her thoughts, that he was still there, when she found such an abundance of his sweet-swelling myrrh in the lock, and upon the handles of it; but she was very much mistaken, as she afterwards found. For, II. Her ‘beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone;’ a very great disappointment indeed! she expected, that as soon as ever the door was open, she should have seen him, and that he would have received her in his arms, and embraced her in his bosom; but instead of that, he was gone, and she could neither have any sight, nor hear any tidings of him. Here it may be inquired, 1st , What is meant by Christ’s withdrawing himself from his church and people? 2dly, Why he did now with withdraw himself from the church? And, 3dly, Why she makes use of two words to express his departure from her, and what they import? 1st, It may be inquired what is meant by Christ’s withdrawing himself from his church and people? And, 1. It is not to be understood of him as the omnipresent God, who is every where, and fills heaven and earth with his presence; for as there is no fleeing from it, so there is no withdrawing of it, as David says, <19D907> Psalm 139:7, ‘Whither shall I go from thy spirit, or whither shall I fly from thy presence?’ there is no place exempted from it, nor can be; he does not move from place to place, nor from person to person; nor is he sometimes with a person, and sometimes not; for if so, he would not be the omnipresent God. Nor, 2. Is it to be understood of the dissolution of a believer’s covenant-interest in Christ, and union to him: a believer may lose sight of Christ for a time, but he can never lose his interest in him: the relation between them can never cease; the marriage-knot can never be untied, nor the union-bonds be, ever broken; for Christ has said, Hosea 2:19. ‘I will betroth thee unto me for ever:’ the union between Christ and believers is in some measure like to that between the Father and the Son; and I will venture to say, that the one may as soon be dissolved as the other; see John 17:22,23. Nor, 3. Is it to be understood of a withdrawing of his love and affection from them; for though they may sometimes think he has, yet he never does, nor never will withdraw it; his love to them is as unchangeable as himself; it is the ‘ same yesterday, today, and for ever;’ for ‘having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them to the end;’ he has given his word, that though he, ‘for a small moment forsakes them, yet with everlasting kindness will he have mercy on them;’ and as if this was not enough, he joins his oath to it, and swears, that he ‘would not be wroth with them, nor rebuke them;’ and declares, that his kindness and his covenant are as immoveable as, nay, more than mountains and hills; which, one would think, is enough to banish all doubts and fears from believers, and fill them with as firm a persuasion as the apostle Paul was possessed of, when he says, ‘I am persuaded that neither life nor death,’ etc. ‘shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ But, 4. It is to be understood of the withdrawing of the sensible manifestations of his presence and love: and this is what the church has experienced in all ages; for he is a God that ‘hideth his face from the house of Jacob;’ and what particular believers have met with, as is manifest from David, Heman, and others. And this was what the church wanted, even some sensible enjoyments of Christ’s presence and grace; she had his strengthening and supporting presence, which enabled her to rise and open; but she wanted his comforting and soul-rejoicing presence, and sensible communion with him; Christ’s love is always the same, but the sense of it in believers is variable; the one is sometimes withdrawn, the other never. 2dly, It may seem a little strange, and almost unaccountable, that Christ at this instant should withdraw himself from his church; seeing he had so importunately desired her to arise and open to him; had used all methods to win upon her, find by his grace had enabled her to do it; and yet now it is done, he withdraws himself and is gone: and therefore it is proper to inquire why he should do so; which was perhaps, 1. To chastise her for her former carriage to him: had he, as soon as she had opened the door, shown himself to her, and received her with all tokens of love and joy; she would not have thought the offense so great, nor that he was so much provoked by it, and did so highly resent it as he did; therefore to bring her to a sense of it, and to correct her for it, by suffering the loss of his company, he withdraws himself. 2. To try the truth and strength of her grace: her grace was now in exercise, as appears by her rising and opening; and now, the more to exercise it, and prove the strength of it, he with. draws himself: thus all our afflictions, temptations and desertions, are for the trial of our faith, and other graces; which being tried, appear ‘much more precious than of gold that perisheth.’ 3. To enflame her love, and sharpen her desires the more after him; which effect his withdrawing from her, in Song of Solomon 3:1-3, had upon her; and so it had here: many such instances we have in Job, David, and others; who, being without the presence of God, have the more earnestly wished for, vehemently thirsted, punted and breathed after a re-enjoyment of it; see Job 23:2; Psalm 43:1,2; and <196301> 63:1, and it is usually so, that the want of a blessing, not only brings us under a conviction of the worth of it, and so draws out our affections to it, but also enlarges and increases our desires after it. 4. To endear his presence the more, when she came to enjoy it: when a soul has been destitute of Christ’s presence for a time, and come to enjoy it again, O how sweet, ravishing and delightful is it to him! and how much it is valued by him! the disciples were without Christ’s bodily presence but a few days; and when he appeared to them, we are told, John 20:20, that ‘then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord;’ and what expressions of joy, and intimations of esteem for Christ’s presence, does the church give, in Song of Solomon 3:4, when she had found her lost spouse? 5. To keep her humble: had she immediately enjoyed his presence upon her rising and opening to him, she might dare thought that she had, by those actions of hers, deserved such a favor at his hands; therefore, to hide pride from her, and to let her know the nothingness of all her doings, and that they fell abundantly short of meriting such a blessing, he withdraws himself: our enjoyment of Christ’s presence, and the communications of his love and grace to us, as much depend on his free and sovereign will, as the first display of his grace to us; he gives these favors at pleasure, and that to whom, when, and where he pleases. 6. To show her the odious nature of sin, which was the cause of this.; and that she might, through grace, be more upon her guard against it, and be more cautious of provoking him to it again: it was sin that was the cause of the angel’s being turned out of heaven, the place of the divine abode; and of Adam’s being drove out of Eden, from the presence of the Lord God; and though sin cannot dissolve the union that is between Christ and a believer, nor destroy his covenant-interest in him; yet it is often the cause of God’s hiding his face, and Christ’s withdrawing his presence from him; ‘Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you,’ says the prophet Isaiah 59:2, to the people of Israel; and it was the church’s unbecoming carriage to Christ, which was the cause of his withdrawing from her now; and therefore to bring here to a sense of it, and to see the odious nature thereof, he withdraws himself; that when she enjoyed it again, she might be more careful not to provoke him again by such steps as these: and such an effect it had upon her, in Song of Solomon 3:4,5, where she not only held him fast herself, and would not let him go; but also charges the daughters of Jerusalem to give him no molestation or disturbance. 3dly, The church makes use of two words here to express Christ’s departure from her, ‘My beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone,’ which signify and import, 1. That this was done suddenly and secretly, unseen, at an unawares to her, and unexpected by her; so the word translated, ‘had withdrawn himself,’ f85 , signifies a doing it secretly; he ‘turned himself about, and was gone’ f86 in a moment; he withdrew himself privately from the door, and passed by the window, and was gone; so that she could not set eyes upon him, nor hear any tidings of him. 2. That he was gone at a very great distance in her apprehensions: so believers think sometimes, when Christ has withdrawn himself from them, that he is gone a great way off, is not within call, and will never return more; see Psalm 10:1, and this is thought by some f87 , to be the import of the first word; and the other, being added to it, heightens the sense. 3. That he was really gone: it was not u mere imagination of hers, but it was certainly so; which she found to her great grief and sorrow. 4. The doubling of the words, or her using those two words without a copulative, he ‘had withdrawn himself, was gone,’ which she seems to speak in the utmost haste and confusion, represent the strength of her passion, the greatness of her sorrow, what a wretched disappointment she met with; and as if she was wringing her hands, and crying outs ‘He is gone, he is gone, he is gone.’ Which brings us to consider, III. What effect this disappointment had upon her; ‘my soul,’ says she, ‘failed when he spoke,’ or went out f88 ; I was as one dead, I immediately fell into a swoon, and was as one whose life and soul departed. Some f89 think that the church in these words excuses herself from the blame of not rising and opening to him sooner; as if she should say, I am not so much to be blamed, nor has my beloved so much reason to be provoked at, nor so highly to resent my not rising and opening sooner; for as soon as ever I heard his voice, saying, ‘Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove,’ etc., it overcame my heart, my soul failed at these words of his; I immediately fell into a swoon, and lay as one lifeless and helpless, and was not able to rise and open to him; but as soon as ever I came to my senses, and was recovered a little out of this fit, I arose and opened to him: but it does not appear from the context, that side did fall into such a fit at his calling to her, or was rendered non combos mentis; for she was capable all the while of observing all his words and ways; how he carried himself to her, and proceeded with her; what steps he took, and methods he used, till he had brought her to arise and open, Therefore the words seem rather to be expressive of that confusion of mind she was thrown into, when she found he was gone; even as it is said of the queen of Sheba, that ‘there was no more spirit in her;’ occasioned through wonder and surprise in beholding Solomon’s wisdom, and the order and management of his house and servants, that she knew not what to think or what to say: so the church here being surprised at Christ’s absence, her soul fails her, no spirit is left in her; she knew not what to think, say, or do: or else they are expressive of the exceeding grief and sorrow that she was overwhelmed with; ‘my soul failed when he spoke,’ or ‘at his word’ f90 ; that is, at the remembrance of it:

    O! now I call to mind how lovingly, kindly, and tenderly he spoke to me, when he said, ‘Open to me, my sister, my love,’ etc., yet, vile, ungrateful wretch, as I am, I took no notice of it; I put him off with idle excuses, I kept my bed and indulged myself in sloth and ease; but now it cuts me to the heart, it grieves me, t cannot bear up under it; when I remember his love, and my unkindness, I sink, I faint, I die; I cannot live without his presence; his absence is death unto me; my soul fails at his words of love and grace which he spoke to me, and at his word of command which he enjoined me; to which, being disobedient, I have now lost his company, which is intolerable to me. She seems to be much in the same case that the Psalmist was, when he said, <19E307> Psalm 143:7, ‘Hear me speedily, O Lord, my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.’

    IV. Being somewhat recovered out of her fainting fit, she rallied together all the spirit and strength she had, and out she goes in search of her lost spouse; the methods she took, and how she succeeded therein, are as follow: 1st, She sought him, namely, in the public ordinances, ‘in the streets and broad ways of the city,’ as she had done before, in Song of Solomon 3:2, and that with the same success; ‘she sought him, but found him not.’

    The nature of seeking a lost Christ, and how to be performed, as also why the church succeeded no better, have been there shown; which will equally serve to explain and illustrate this. 2dly, She called him, to wit, by name, as she went along the streets and broad ways; that is, she prayed unto him, that he would manifest himself to her in his own ordinances; and no doubt but the method she took was right, and may serve to instruct us, that we should not only before we attended upon an ordinance, pray for the presence of Christ in it; but also, when we are attending, our souls should be breathing after, and secretly begging for it. But how did she succeed herein? she ‘called him, but he gave her no answer;’ resolving still to chastise her for her former ingratitude; to try her faith, and exercise her patience; to enflame her love to him, and increase her desires after communion with him. But, 1. This seems contrary to those kind promises; ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, etc. call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee,’ etc. but she asked, and it was not given to her what she asked for; she sought, but found not; she called, but no answer is returned: to which it may be replied, that God does, and certainly will make good his own promises, and fulfill the petitions of his people; yet he does not always answer immediately, nor just in that way which they are desirous of the church had his upholding presence, though not sensible communion with him; she was so far answered, as to be ‘strengthened with strength in her soul,’ to continue in her search and inquiries after him; though she had not those manifestations of his grace and love, which she was desirous of. 2. It is a very great affliction to a believer, when he labors under such apprehensions, that his prayers are not heard and answered; the church mentions this among her sore afflictions, in Lamentations 3:8,44, that God had ‘shut out her prayer,’ and had ‘covered himself with a cloud, that her prayer should not pass through:’ unconverted men, hypocrites and carnal professors, are not concerned about the answer of their prayers; it is enough to them to perform these duties; but believers are concerned about the returns of prayer, and, are grieved to the heart, as the church here was, when they cannot observe any. 3. Christ here treats her just in the same way in which she had treated him; she is paid in her own coin; he had called to her, but she disregarded him, and turned a deaf ear to him, and returned him no answer, that deserved the name of one; she now calls to him, but he disregards her, turns a deaf ear to her, and gives her no answer; he treats her here, not in a way of vindictive wrath and punishment, as he will do the wicked at the last day; see Proverbs 1:24-28, but in a way of chastisement and correction.

    What success she afterwards met with, will be seen in the following verses.

    VERSE 7.

    The watchmen, that went about the city, found me; they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me. THE church in the former verse gives an account of the wretched disappointment she met with, when she opened the door to her beloved, who had withdrawn himself, and was gone; at which she fell into a fainting fit, out of which, when she was a little recovered, she resolved not to stay at the door, lamenting the loss of her spouse, but to go out in search of him, which she did, but with no success; and she does in these words give an account of what she met with in the adventure; how she was taken up by, and evilly treated by them. Where we have to consider, I. Her being found by ‘the watchmen that went about the city, and ‘keepers of the walls.’

    II. Their treatment of her, and carriage to her.

    I. In this search of her beloved, she falls into the hands of the watchmen that went about the city, and the keepers of the walls thereof; who were officers of the church, set for the defense of it, and for the administration of those ordinances, in which she sought her beloved; and the description of them, or these titles and characters which they bear, may lead us to observe, 1st , That the church is a city: and no doubt is called so, in allusion to the city of Jerusalem, which was builded as a city that is compact together; it was the metropolis of the land of Judea, where Solomon kept his court, was well fortified, and delightfully situated; and therefore the church militant, as well as the church triumphant, is called by the same name; which is the city of God; of which the psalmist says, Psalm 87:3.

    Glorious things are spoken; it is the place of the residence of the King of kings; where his honor dwells, where he keeps his court, and has his palace; and therefore is called the city of the great King, in whose palaces God is known for a refuge; here he shows himself, here he maybe seen; therefore she was in the right of it to seek him here: in this city are all needful and delightful accommodations; it is beautiful for situation, a river of boundless love and grace runs through it, whose streams supply, refresh, and make glad the inhabitants of it; here are the best provisions to be had, which are called the goodness and fatness of God’s house; here are the most delightful company, and agreeable conversation; here souls have fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ; those who are brought unto, and are made inhabitants of this city of the living God, have communion with an innumerable company of angels, and spirits of just men made perfect by Christ’s righteousness: in this city are many special and peculiar privileges and immunities, which the inhabitants of it enjoy; for being Christ’s freemen, and freemen of this city, they have a right to all the ordinances of the gospel, and share in all the promises which concern the grace and presence of Christ; they are under no obligation to any other laws but those of Christ’s, and are freed from the curses and condemnation of the law of works; so that to be a citizen of this city, and a fellow-citizen of the saints, is no, small privilege; see Ephesians 2:19; Revelation 3:12; But of the church’s being compared to a city, see mote on chapter 3:2. 2dly, Mention being made of the keepers of the walls of this city, shews us, that this city of God is a walled one; it is a fortified place, even as Jerusalem was, to which the allusion is made, when the church of God is spoken of; as in Psalm 51:18, and <19C207> 122:7, and it may be proper to inquire what are the walls of the church, which render it strong and impregnable. And, 1. God himself is the wall of it, according to what he himself says, Zechariah 2:5, ‘For I, saith the Lord, will be a wall of fire round about it, and will be the glory in the midst of her;’ he is not only a wall that keeps the enemy from entrance into the city, but a wall of fire that consumes and destroys all that make near approaches to it; all the divine perfections are as so many walls, which encompass and defend the church; especially that of Almighty power, by which saints are kept as in a garrison f91 , through faith unto salvation: Jerusalem was fortified, not only by art, but also by nature, not only with walls, but with mountains; and ‘as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round. about his people, from henceforth, even for ever,’ <19C502> Psalm 125:2. 2. Salvation by Christ is the church’s wall, which render it strong and impregnable: hence we read, in Isaiah 26:1. In that day, that is, in the gospel day, when salvation is accomplished by Christ, ‘shall this song be sung in the land of Judah, We have a strong city; ‘But what is it which makes it so? salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks: and, this song will be sung more clearly in the latter day, when the church shall call her walls, salvation, and her gates, praise: salvation wrought out by Christ, is the church’s protection from all enemies; hereby believers are screened and secured from sin and Satan, law, hell, and wrath to come; no enemy’ can destroy them, no condemnation reach them, nor any wrath fall on them; but they shall be ‘saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.’ 3. Ministers may be called so, who are set for the defense of the gospel: so the Lord told Jeremiah, chapter 1:18, that he had made him a defenced city, an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land; though they seem not to be intended here, because they are called the keepers of the walls, and not the walls themselves. Now the city of God being thus walled and fortified, shows, (1.) That it would otherwise be in danger from enemies: for the church of Christ has many enemies, who are lively and strong, crafty and cunning, vigilant and active, seeking all opportunities to get within, and there make disturbance, and do mischief: but this city is so well walled and firmly built, that let Satan, with all his emissaries, use all their power and cunning, and lay the closest seige unto it, the gates of hell will never be able to prevail against it. (2.) The great care which God takes of his church and people; for as birds flying or fluttering over and about their nest, in order to preserve their young, when they are in danger of being taken away from them; ‘ so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also, he will deliver it; and passing over, he will preserve it,’ as it is said in Isaiah 31:5, which care for their preservation, is manifestly seen in his placing such walls about it. 3dly, In this city are proper officers appointed and set to watch over and guard it; and these go under two titles or characters in the text. 1. They are called ‘watchmen that went about the city:’ these are the ministers of the church, who are called so both in the Old and New Testament; because they ought to watch over themselves, their doctrine and conversation, and to watch over others, who are made their care and charge: the business of watchmen is also to give the time of night, to give notice of present or approaching danger, either by fire or by thieves and robbers, and to take up disorderly persons, and bring them to correction: so the ministers of the gospel give notice what time of clay or night it is with the churches of Christ; they give notice to sinners of the danger which they are in, whilst in a state of nature; and also what danger churches may be in, through contentious persons and heretics, who endeavor to sow the seeds of discord, error and heresy among them; likewise their business is to awake and arouse sleepy professors, who are indulging themselves in carnal ease and security in the streets of Zion; and to admonish, reprove, and rebuke all that stand in need thereof, and so bring them under the notice and censure of the church. These are said to go about the city, (1.) To distinguish them from those upon the walls: those that went about the city, were to take care of the peace and safety of the city within; the keepers of the walls were to descry an enemy without, observe his motions, repel him, if able, and to give notice to those within of danger from him; the one was a running watch, the other a standing one. (2.) To show the nature of their work, and their diligence in it: it was the business of the keepers of the walls, to keep their stands, and not stir from their places; but the work of these was to go from place to place, to see that all was in peace and safety; but of these watchmen, see more in chapter 3:3. 2. These officers are called ‘keepers of the walls;’ by ‘which some f92 understand angels, who encamp about, and protect the people of God; others f93 , civil magistrates, who, the apostle says, Romans 13:3,4 are not ‘ terrors to good works, but to the evil;’ and that ‘he is the minister of God for good, and beareth not the sword in vain:’ but if these were civil magistrates, they terrified the church in the way of her duty, and discouraged her in it; nay, turned the point of their swords against her, as often the princes of this world do, being ignorant of Christ and his church: but I rather think church-officers are here intended, and that they are the same with the watch-men who went about the city; only they may be expressive of different branches in the ministry, or of different talents which ministers have, and are to use in the discharge of their work: some, their work chiefly lies in comforting and establishing the church, in answering cases of conscience, and keeping peace and order within; and they have gifts suitable thereunto; and these may be called watchmen that go about the city: others, their work lies chiefly in defending the gospel against the avowed enemies of it; these keep the outworks good, and repel the enemy, whenever he makes an attack upon any doctrine of the gospel; and these may be called ‘the keepers or watchmen of the walls;’ and so ministers are called in Isaiah 62:6. The Jews in Shirhashirim Rabba, and in Yalkut on the place, understand by these keepers, the tribe of Levi, the keepers of the walls of the law. But it may now be inquired, whether these were the true ministers of Christ, or no: some think that they were; they are called watchmen, and watchmen in the city, the church, though it is true, false teachers may bear the same name as true ones, and be in office in the church as well as they; but what seems most to strengthen this opinion, is, that they Mere about their work, and in the discharge of their office; the watchmen were going about the city, as they should do, and the keepers of the walls were upon their stands, as they ought to be: others think that they were not the true and faithful ministers of the gospel; but such who are called ‘blind watchmen, etc.’ in Isaiah 56:10,11, and that, (1.) Because the church makes no inquiry of them, nor any application to them, which she did in a like case to the watchmen, in Song of Solomon 3:3, and therefore it seems to intimate, that she, not looking upon them as ministers of Christ, had nothing to say to them, but would have shunned them if she could. (2.) Because of their cruelty to her: they are not so pitiful, compassionate and tender, as becomes the ministers of Christ to be to souls in such cases; they seem rather to be ravenous wolves, than faithful shepherds or watchmen, and are most like those in Ezekiel 34:2-21. Plato says, keepers of cities should be mild and gentle towards their own, but to enemies rough and severe.

    Now these found the church seeking and inquiring for her beloved; which shows, that she was in the city, in the streets and broad ways of it: she searched all over the city, where the watchmen that went about it, found her; and, escaping from them with blows and wounds, finding that her beloved was not there, she makes to the outparts of the city, perhaps designing to go without the city in search of him, where she fell into the hands of the keepers of the walls. This finding of her, also appears to be accidental and at an unawares; they were not seeking her, nor was she inquiring after them; it was on a sudden that they found her; and as soon as they did find her, they fell upon her, and took her up for a stroller or nightwalker; and by their treatment of her, manifestly showed that they found her, not as a friend, but as an enemy; and therefore did not let her go safe, but with blows, wounds, and the loss of her veil. Which brings us to consider, II. Their treatment of her, and carriage to her. And, 1st , ‘The watchmen, that went about the city, smote and wounded her;’ which, if we understand of the true ministers of the gospel (though I rather think that others are intended) must be meant, either of their upbraiding and reproaching her for her former unkindness to Christ, and negligence of her duty; when they told her, and hit her in the teeth of her former sins and miscarriages, they smote and cut her to the heart, opened the wound, and made it bleed afresh; and so, like Job’s friends, proved miserable comforters, who broke him in pieces with words, with words both of reproof and reproach they laid open her sins to her, and sharply reproved her for them, when they should have comforted her with the doctrines of justification by Christ’s righteousness, and pardon by his blood; for Christ’s own ministers may sometimes be mistaken in timing reproofs and corrections; or else, she being under the ministry of the word, and hearing some sweet discourses concerning Christ’s person and grace, her heart was smitten and wounded therewith, which made her charge the daughters of Jerusalem, in the following verse, that when they found her beloved, they would tell him, that she was sick of, or wounded with love. But if we understand it of false teachers, which seems most agreeable; then by those smitings and woundings, are meant, the scandalous lives of such persons, the rents and divisions they make, the false doctrines which they preach; and those human traditions, which with force, they impose upon the consciences of men, being assisted by civil magistrates, whom they stir up to make penal laws, and put them in execution against the saints; by all which means they make the hearts of the righteous sad, and wound the consciences of God’s children. One of the Greek versions is, ‘they scourged me,’ whipped her till she was black and blue; as the Jews did the first Christians in their synagogues. 2dly, ‘The keepers of the walls took away her veil from her:’ veils were used by women in those countries: sometimes for ornament, Isaiah 3:23, sometimes as a token of modesty; thus Rebekah, when she found that Isaac was coming to meet her, covered herself with a veil, Genesis 24:65, and sometimes as a token of subjection to the husband; for which the apostle argues, that women ought to be covered, 1 Corinthians 11:6-10, at marriage, it was customary with the Grecians f98 , to give a veil to the new-married bride ; the bridegroom, with the Romans, used to give the bride a veil, called flammeum f99 , from its being of a flame-color, either yellow or red, expressive of the blushing and modesty of the new bride f100 ; and the like custom might obtain with the Jews. Now for the keepers to take away her veil from her, was to strip her of her ornaments, and expose her frailties and infirmities, which ought to be covered; it was to disown her as the spouse of Christ, and to represent her as a whorish and impudent woman; and, whereas she professed herself to be Christ’s, to serve him in the way of his appointments; they endeavored to ‘corrupt her from the simplicity that is in Christ,’ and to draw her aside to a reception of false doctrines, and to a compliance with human traditions: and then more especially, may they be said to take away her veil, when they oppose and endeavor to subvert or remove the doctrine of imputed righteousness by Christ; Christ’s righteousness is the believer’s veil or covering; this is ‘the wedding garment, perizolaion numfikon , the nuptial robe, as Gregory Nyssen calls the veil here; and when persons attempt to take away this doctrine, they do as much as in them lies to take away the church’s veil.

    And now all this cruelty was exercised by persons professing religion, under a mask of godliness; by those who were officers in the church, from whom she might have expected a quite different treatment; and indeed, who were more bitter enemies to Christ and his apostles, than the priests and Pharisees were? and who have more cruelly persecuted in after-ages, than those who have professed Christianity! The church thus escaping from the watchmen and keepers, with blows, wounds, and the loss of her veil, meets with the daughters of Jerusalem, to whom she speaks in the following manner.

    VERSE 8. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.

    THE church having met with a disappointment, as has been observed in verse 6 by her beloved’s withdrawing-himself from her; but resolving to find him, if possible, she seeks for him in the public ordinances; where she is taken notice of by the officers of the church, ‘the watchmen of the city, and and keepers of the walls;’ who very much abuse her; ‘smite and wound’ her, and take away her veil from her; by reason of which, she making a hideous outcry in the streets, the ‘daughters of Jerusalem,’ the wise virgins, who were then sleeping and slumbering on their beds, were awakened and alarmed, and rose up to know what was the matter; who being observed by the church, had the charge in the text given unto them by her. In which we have, I. The persons whom she addresses, and in this solemn manner adjures; ‘the daughters of Jerusalem.’

    II. The charge itself, which she gives them; which is, to tell her beloved, when found by’ them, that she was ‘sick of love.’

    III. The condition of this charge; ‘if ye find my beloved.’

    IV. The manner in which this charge is given, which is very solemn and serious.

    I. The persons to whom she gives this charge; ‘the daughters of Jerusalem:’ by whom we are not to understand the prophets, as the Targum does; though these were proper persons for the church to make application to in her present condition; but having been so evilly treated by the watchmen and keepers of the walls, she had but little encouragement to go to them: nor are angels here meant, as some think though they are ‘ministering, spirits, sent to the heirs of salvation,’ and are often useful to the saints on many accounts; yet it does not seem to be their business, nor are they capable of assisting and relieving souls in such a case as this of the church’s: nor are ‘saints departed’ meant, as some popish interpreters f103 imagine: as if the church desired their prayers for her, who are uncapable, of giving her any assistance: but by them we are to understand saints here on earth, the friends and companions of the church, which bel;ong to that Jerusalem, which ‘is free, and is the mother of us all;’ these were fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;’ perhaps were young converts, as has been observed in other places of this Song; and it is certain, that they were believers of the weaker sort; their knowledge of Christ was but small, though they had a great respect for the church, and a desire of sucking Christ with her, verse 9 and Song of Solomon 6:1.

    The church now making application to these persons in her disconsolate condition, shows, 1. Her humility: that she is willing to be assisted by mean Christians or weak believers, who were much inferior to her in faith and knowledge; it is the nature of grace, and the tendency of such trying dispensations as these, in which the church was, to make and keep souls humble; the more grace they have, the more humble they will be; the greatest believer reckoned himself the ‘least of saints, and the chief of sinners,’ and is willing to be instructed and admonished by the meanest saint; see <19E105> Psalm 141:5, and is glad of the prayers and assistance of weak believers, when in distress. 2. Her resolution to use all means to find her beloved, as Job did, Job 23:8,9, she will leave no stone unturned, nor let slip any opportunity, where there was any probability or possibility of finding him; she had sought him in public ordinances, but with no success; nay, had met with ill treatment front church-officers; yet she is not discouraged, but is resolved to persist in her search of him; she had spread her case before Christ in prayer, and could get no answer; and now she betakes herself to the company of private Christians, that by conference with them, and through their prayers for her, she might be brought to the enjoyment of what she was seeking after. 3. That communion and conversation with saints is a very proper method to be taken by believers in such cases; conversing together about the things of God, is very acceptable and well-pleasing to him: it is said, Malachi 3:16, of the saints, who ‘spake often one to another, that the Lord hearkened and heard, listened as it were unto it, and took such notice of it, that ‘a book of remembrance was written before him’ for them; he did, as it were, take notes and minutes of what they said and thought, and laid them up: as we should spread our cases before God; so it is very proper, and often very useful, to spread our case before one another; and therefore there should not be a ‘forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but so much the more should’ we assemble together, as our various wants and cases require. 4. That when souls are in distress, it is their duty and interest to make application to others; they should not only pray for themselves, which should be done in the first place, but they should also desire the prayers of others for them; for ‘the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much:’ and it is no disgrace nor dishonor for a person superior in office, gifts, and graces to others, to desire their assistance by their prayers for him at the throne of grace; instances of this we have, not only in the church here, but in that great man of God, and instance of grace, the apostle Paul, who frequently desired the prayers of meaner saints for him; see Ephesians 6:19; Thessalonians 3:1,2. 5. That it is the duty of saints to be assisting to each other in their distresses, as much as in them lies; by singing the praises of God together, by praying one with and for another, and by conferring with each other about divine things, and so building up one another on their most holy faith: there ought to be a sympathizing spirit in the saints; they should ‘bear one another’s burdens, and should mutually help each other; they should weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice.’ But, II. Let us consider the charge itself, which is given to them by her; and that is to tell her beloved, when they found him, that she was sick of love.

    This does not suppose that he was ignorant or unmindful of her present state; he heard her, though he would not answer; he knew that she was inquiring after him, and what hardships she underwent in doing it; and also, how much her soul was filled with love to him, and longed for the enjoyment of him; though he would not immediately show himself, intending a little longer to chastise her for her former carriage to him: but the words shew the ardency of her love to Christ, and that she would have them declare this to him, in their prayers for her, which she thought might be a means to induce him to manifest himself to her; as also they show what familiarity souls may use at the throne of grace what freedom they may take with Christ, when they come into his presence, ‘tell him that I am sick of love.’ They may tell him their own cases, and the cases of others, as one friend may tell another, or as a child may tell its father; they may go with boldness to him, and spread their own and others cases before him, without fear of being chided or upbraided by him; and indeed it is their duty to bear upon their minds, at the throne of grace, not only their own cases, and the cases of the churches in general, as the apostle Paul frequently did; but also the cases of particular persons, whom they know to be in distress; therefore Christ taught his disciples to pray after this manner, ‘Our Father, etc. and forgive us our debts, etc.’ to show that they should be concerned for others in prayer, as well as for themselves. The words in the Hebrew text may be rendered thus, ‘What shall ye, or should ye tell him?’ as if she should say, Do not tell him the blows and wounds that I have received from the watchmen; nor desire him to revenge the injuries and affronts they have given me, I freely forgive them; nor am I so much concerned at the sufferings that I undergo, as I am for the loss of him: ‘What shall ye tell him ?’ Tell him that which lies most upon my heart, under which I shall sink and die, if he does not relieve me; ‘tell him that I am sick of love.’ Again, What shall ye tell him? Tell him that which will be the most acceptable and agreeable to him; tell him I love him so, that I cannot live without him: she knew that he valued her love, and that his heart would be ravished with it, from what he had said, Song of Solomon 4:9,10, and therefore would have this told him. Again, ‘What shall ye tell him?’ What shall I say to you to tell him? I have a great many things to tell him of; but I will not overburden your memories, but I will give you my mind in a few words, in the most concise manner, ‘tell him that I am sick of love;’ and when I meet with him myself, I will tell him all my mind; but for the present, only tell him this. But let us a little more particularly consider the matter of this charge, or what the church would have the daughters of Jerusalem tell Christ, when they found him; which is, that she was ‘sick of love.’ And it will be proper to inquire, 1st, The causes of this sickness; which sometimes are, 1. A want of the views of pardoning grace, under a sense of sin, which perhaps was the case of the church here; she had sinned against Christ, in neglecting to arise and open to him; and she was now sensible of it, but wanted the manifestations of pardon; and was therefore in a languishing and fainting condition on the account of it; and it is only this which will cure this sickness: ‘The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick;’ Why so? ‘the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity;’ that is, they shall have the manifestations of pardoning grace to their souls, which shall cure them of their sicknesses and maladies; which was what the church here wanted. 2. The absence of Christ is sometimes the cause of this sickness; and this also was the church’s case: Christ had ‘withdrawn himself from her, and was gone, as in Song of Solomon 5:6, and though she had diligently sought him, yet she could not find him, nor hear any thing of him; and this brought this sickness upon her. 3. An eager longing after Christ’s presence, and the discoveries of his love, is another cause of it: when a soul has sought Christ a long time in ordinances, and cannot find him; has lived in the hope and expectation of enjoying his presence time after time, and yet is still at a loss for him, then comes this sickness upon it; for, as Solomon says, Proverbs 13:12, ‘hope deferred maketh the heart sick.’ 4. Sometimes the large discoveries of love which believers have, cause a sickness, which may be called a love-sickness; and this is what the church speaks of, in Song of Solomon 2:5, ‘stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love:’ she had been with Christ in his wine- cellar or banqueting-house, and had as much of his love let into her soul, as sloe could hold, nay, more; she was overpowered with it; ‘his banner over’ her had been love. But this was not the church’s case here; her sickness here arises rather from the aforesaid causes, and chiefly from a want of that love which she had such large discoveries of there. 2dly, It may not be amiss to consider the nature and properties of this sickness. And, 1. It is not a sickness unto death; none ever died of this sickness; Christ will never suffer any to die with love for him; for he ‘loves them that love him,’ and will cause them ‘to inherit substance;’ to enjoy himself, the substance of all felicity; and to inherit eternal glory, which is the better and the ‘more enduring substance;’ where they shall have sweet and uninterrupted communion with him. Yet, 2. It is a very sore and painful sickness; like Hezekiah’s, it is a pining one; and oftentimes wastes the body, as well as affects the mind: The Septuagint render it, ‘for I am wounded with love;’ which gave her a great deal of pain and uneasiness; for ‘love is as strong as death.’ 3. It is an immedicable sickness without the enjoyment of Christ, the object loved; bodily physicians cannot cure it; these are in this case, like Job’s physicians, of no value; merry companions are of no service to remove it; the enjoyment of another beloved will not do; the language of a soul in such a case, is, None but Christ, none but Christ; give me Christ, or I die; I cannot live without him: this sickness can only be cured by the object loved, and this infallibly cures; for, ‘as hope deferred maketh the heart sick, so when the desire cometh it is a tree of life.’

    We may now consider the evidences of this love-sickness, or how it manifests itself: and, 1. There is in souls that labor under it, a violent pulsation and punting of the heart after Christ, even ‘as the heart panteth after the water-brooks;’ they are restless and uneasy without him; their thoughts are continually running upon him; the desire of their souls, night and day, ‘is to his name, and to the remembrance of him.’ 2. They are prodigious jealous of him and his love; and this is exceeding afflicting to them; for ‘jealousy is as cruel as the grave:’ they are exceedingly afraid that he does not love them or that he loves others better than them; for, as the poet says, Res est soliciti plena timoris amor. 3. They are very active and diligent, careful and industrious to gain his love; they use all the methods and stratagems they can devise; are bold and resolute, are not discouraged at any difficulties, bat are willing to run all risks for the enjoyment of him. 4. They love to hear his name mentioned, and especially to be spoken well of; his name to them is ‘as ointment poured forth,’ exceeding grateful; it attracts their love, ‘therefore do the virgins love’ him; they love his ways, his ordinances and his doctrines, and cannot bear to hear them spoken against; they love to look upon and converse with his people, because they are like him, and bear a resemblance to him.

    III. The condition of this charge is, ‘if ye find him;’ which shews, 1. That at present these daughters of Jerusalem had not any sight of Christ, nor communion with him; and this appears also manifestly from the following verse, where they inquire of her concerning him. 2. That it was possible that they might find him before she did; for Christ is sometimes ‘found of them that sought him not,’ and is ‘made manifest unto them that asked not after’ him; she was inquiring after Christ but found him not; and yet it was possible that they might find him before her, who had not been seeking after him: also Christ may manifest himself to poor, mean, and weak believers, when he does not to some that are superior to them in faith, light, and knowledge; he showed himself after his resurrection to a poor woman, to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he cast seven devils, before he did to his disciples. 3. That when they did find Christ, and had liberty of access to his presence, that they would then spread her sorrowful case before him, and use their interest with him, to take pity and compassion on her; who was ‘sick of love’ for him; she entreats them to do such a favor for her, as Joseph requested of the chief butler, when he should be restored to his place; says he, Genesis 40:12. ‘But think on me, when it shall be well with thee; and show kindness, I pray thee, unto me; and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house.’ So the church would have these virgins, when it was well with them when they enjoyed the presence of Christ, to think on her and her sorrowful case, and make mention of it to him.

    IV. This charge is delivered in a very solemn manner; ‘I adjure you f106 ,’ or ‘I put you to your oath, I make you swear,’ as the word signifies, that when you find him, you will tell him what I have said to you; I have given you your oath to do it: and now as you will answer it before God, in whose name and presence you have taken it, that you will carefully observe what I say to you, and faithfully deliver the message; if you have any regard to this solemn oath you have taken, or any love to me, I beg you will tell him that I am sick of love. She delivers herself in this solemn manner, not only to show the strength of her love to him, and that she was hearty and sincere in her search and inquiries after him: but also that she was serious in what she said to them, and would have them be serious, diligent, and faithful in telling her case to Christ. The answer returned by them, is as follows.

    VERSE 9.

    What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?

    THE church having solemnly adjured the daughters of Jerusalem, that when they found her beloved, they would tell him that she was sick of love.

    In these words we have their reply to her, which show what an opinion they had of her, and what effect her words had upon them: in which may be observed, I. The title and character they give her; ‘O thou fairest among women.’

    II. A question they propose to her; ‘What is thy beloved more than another beloved?’

    III. This question repeated; where the reason of it must be considered.

    IV. What the occasion was of their putting this question to her; which was her solemn charge, ‘that thou dost so charge us?’

    I. The title or character which they give her, the ‘fairest among women;’ which is expressive of the exceeding greatness of her beauty: she was not only fair, but the fairest, and that among women, whose beauty is excelling; she was the fairest of any of her sex; not as she was in herself, but as she is in Christ, justified by his righteousness, washed in his blood, and sanctified by his Spirit; and being considered thus, she appeared to these daughters, as indeed she really is, a perfection of beauty; and they were not mistaken herein, to Christ, who knew her perfectly well, and from whom she received her comeliness, gives her the same character in the very same words, in chapter 1:8, but then this opinion, which they entertained of her, though it entirely corresponds with that which Christ has entertained of her, yet is extremely different from that which the world has embraced; which shows, that these persons were not of this world, but called by grace out of it, seeing they had different sentiments of the church; the saints are by the world esteemed the filth thereof, and the off-scouring of all things; they are accounted by them the foolish, base, weak, and contemptible things of the world; nay, even things that are not, as if they were mere nonentities, and did not deserve the name of men or beings; and indeed, as they see no beauty nor comeliness in Christ, it is no wonder that they can see none in the church; but these daughters of Jerusalem could, for they judged not according to the outward appearance; the world only sees the outside of the people of God, which is generally poor, mean, and abject; but these could penetrate into the inside of the church, and viewed her, who is the king’s daughter, as all glorious within, and therefore call her the fairest among women; for outwardly she was now black with sins, infirmities, reproaches and persecutions; yet notwithstanding she is highly esteemed of by them; for they had made Moses’ choice, having thought it more eligible to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. Young converts, as I suppose these daughters were, have generally a great respect for old professors, for such that were in Christ before them; these are the excellent in the earth, in whom is all their delight; they love to see them, and take pleasure in their company and conversation; and indeed, as love to the brethren is made an evidence of passing from death to life, by the apostle John, 1 John 3:14, so it shows itself in young converts, as soon as any thing else; for oftentimes, where there is but a small knowledge of Christ, and acquaintance with him, there is a great deal of love to Christ’s people; which was the case of these daughters here: also it may he supposed, that they give her this title to assure her of the high esteem which they had for her, and that opinion which they had of her, that she might not think that they designed her any hurt by asking the following question; but rather, seeing they had such a value for her, that their design was to do her all the service, and, be as assisting to her in her search of her beloved as they were able; and no doubt also, but this opinion which they had of her, made them listen to, and regard the more what she afterwards says of her beloved; for they concluded, that he must be some great and extraordinary person, that she, who was the fairest among women, had made the object of her choice and love: they took it for granted, that one so fair, so wise and prudent as she was, would not take notice of any person, nor lavish and throw away her love upon every object; and this made them the more forward and eager to put the question, which is now to be considered.

    II. The question which they propose to her, is, ‘What is thy beloved more than another beloved?’ which is not put in a scornful, disdainful or profane way, as Pharaoh said to Moses, when he demanded the dismission of the people of Israel, ‘who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?’ or as Rabshakeh to the men of Judah, in that railing, profane speech of his, in 2 Kings 18:33-35, the design and sense of which was, What is the God of Israel more than the gods of the nations? but such was not this question here; these persons were not the profane people of the world; they had a great esteem for the church, and therefore it cannot be supposed that they would insinuate, my thing in a scornful and reproachful way of her beloved: nor did they propose this question with a design to ensnare her, as the Scribes and Pharisees frequently did to Christ; nor with a design to shift off any trouble from themselves, which they might suppose would arise from an observance of her solemn charge, but rather are willing to be assisting to her all they could; and therefore desire to have some distinguishing characters of him, that they might not lose their labor in seeking, and, when they found him, might perfectly know him; which when she had given, to their entire satisfaction, they then desired to know whither he was gone, which way he took when he left her, that they might seek him with her, as is manifest from chapter <220601> 6:1, nor does this question suppose that they were altogether ignorant of her beloved; for though their knowledge of Christ was small, yet they were not entirely destitute of it; and therefore, as one well observes, they do not say, who, but what is thy beloved, etc. and indeed it cannot ‘be reasonably thought, that of him for she had, in chap. they should be entirely ignorant of him; for she had, in chapter 1:5, given some account of herself to them; that though she was black in herself, yet comely in another; which is the reason why they here call her the fairest among women; and there is no doubt but she also gave them some account of him, from whom she received all her comeliness; and in chapter 2:7, and 3:5, she charges them very strictly, to give him, her love, no molestation or disturbance; which could not very well be, without informing them who he was; and in chapter 3:11, she invites them to come forth and see this glorious person, who was her Lord and husband, in all his glory, on his coronation and espousal-clay; to which invitation, they no doubt complied, and therefore must have some knowledge of him. The design then of this question is, that they might know him more and better; which also is the desire of every gracious soul, even of those who have made the greatest proficiency in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; the apostle Paul perhaps knew as much of Christ as ever any mere man on earth did, and yet he desired to know more of him, and the power of his resurrection; for he valued the knowledge of him above all things else: these daughters of Jerusalem, though they knew but little, were willing to know more of Christ; as they had begun to know, they desired to follow on to know him, and make a greater improvement in this kind of learning; and being sensible of the church’s abilities, desire her assistance, and are willing to, be instructed by her: also those who knew the most of Christ, are frequently desirous of having his praises and excellencies set forth by others; for they can never hear him enough extolled; his name to them is as ointment poured forth; therefore they love him, as did the virgins here; who excited the church hereunto, by putting this question, and so had their ends answered: and perhaps likewise they might have in view the trial of her faith in Christ, her knowledge of him, and love to him in her present state; she was now under his resentments; he had withdrawn himself from her, and she was exposed to the scandal, reproach, and persecutions of her enemies; and they were willing to know how her faith stood now, whether she loved him now as well as ever, and whether by his absence she had nor lost all just ideas of him; and in this she gives them full satisfaction in her answer to them; where she gives an exact account of him, describes him from head to foot, and shows the strength of her faith in him, and affections for him, particularly in the close of it, verse 16, also in this question they seem principally desirous of knowing what those excellencies were which were in him, that distinguished him from other beloveds, and made him preferable to them: Christ was the chiefest among ten thousands in her esteem; to all that believe he is precious; not only precious upon an equal foot with others, but far more precious than all other things or persons besides; for there is none in heaven, nor any upon earth, that saints desire besides him: there are indeed a great many other beloveds, but Christ is preferable to them all; and in what he is so, the daughters of Jerusalem were willing to know. 1st , The world, with the riches and grandeur of it, is the beloved of some persons. There are too many, both in the world and in the church, that have their affections too much set on earthly things; who neglect their own souls, and the cause and interest of Christ Jesus; having, Demas-like, loved this present world: but, alas! What is this world, or any thing in it, to be compared to Christ, the believer’s beloved? everything, even the best that is in the world, is fading, perishing and transitory; many temptations and snares, foolish and hurtful lusts, does an immoderate care for, and sinful love of this world, run persons into; therefore, says the apostle John, John 2:15, ‘love not the world, neither the things that are in the world;’ for they are not to be mentioned with Christ he is infinitely preferable to them; see Proverbs 3:13-15. 2dly, The sinful lusts and pleasures of this life are the beloveds of others.

    Every natural man has his beloved lust or lusts; and these he idolizes and adores, falls down to and worships; he makes gods of them, as the apostle says, Philippians 3:19, of some, ‘whose god is their belly:’ and it may be said of all by nature, that they are ‘serving divers lusts and pleasures,’ being lovers of them; who are never better pleased and more satisfied, than when they are ‘fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind;’ but these pleasures are but short-lived; they afford no real satisfaction now; and, if grace prevent not, will end in bitterness and death: wherefore the worst of a believer, even his afflictions, are better than these; and therefore he thinks it more eligible to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; and if so, much more preferable must Christ, an interest in him, union to him, and communion with him, be to all such beloveds as these. 3dly, The praise and applause of men is another beloved of some persons.

    This was the beloved of the hypocritical Pharisees, who, in all the parts of their religion and devotion, sought the honor of men, and not of God: as also of those, who, though they were convinced in their consciences that Christ was the Messiah, and believed him to be so, yet ‘did not confess him, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God;’ they were afraid that their good names, characters and reputations should be blasted, as too many are now: and therefore drop the doctrines of the gospel, and desert the cause and interest of Christ Jesus: but though ‘a good name is better than precious ointment,’ it is not better than a precious Jesus, whose ‘name is as ointment poured forth;’ nor better than the precious doctrines of the gospel; it is much preferable to be nick-named, reproached, and vilified with Christ and his gospel, than to have the best name, character, and reputation in this world without them; for what will it avail a man, ‘though he hath gained all this, when God taketh away his soul?’ 4thly, Near and dear relations are the only beloveds of others, as parents, children, etc. They set their affections so much on these, that Christ has little or no share in them: now, says Christ, Matthew 10:37, ‘he that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me:’ Christ is preferable to all such beloveds, and indeed to any creature-enjoyment whatever. 5thly, and lastly, Self is the beloved of many; nay, may not I say, too much the dearly-beloved of us all? Self lies close to us, is near and dear unto us; and we too much deserve that character, ‘lovers of ourselves, more than lovers of God;’ and yet Christ requires of us, that we should deny this beloved self, sinful self, and part with it for him; nay, even righteous self, our beloved righteousness, which we are naturally so fond of, and which is so hard and difficult a work to do; and yet souls are enabled by divine grace to do this, seeing a superexcellency in Christ and his righteousness, as the apostle Paul did; who, though he had been so much in love with his own righteousness; it had been his darling, he valued himself much upon it, and thought to have gained much by it; yet threw it all away as ‘loss and dung,’ and desired to be found in Christ, and ‘in his righteousness only; that being far preferable to his former beloved. Thus Christ excels all other beloveds; and he must needs do so, for, 1. He is fairer than all others; there is no such beauty to be found in any beloved whatever as is in him; he is the ‘brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.’ 2. He is wiser than all others; he is a perfection of wisdom, as well as beauty; ‘in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ 3. He is richer than all others; he is possessed of ‘unsearchable riches;’ riches which can never be told over, in time, nor to all eternity; he has riches of grace and riches of glory; ‘yea, durable riches and righteousness.’

    Now one, in whom all beauty, wisdom and riches meet, must needs be an excellent person, and appear preferable to all beloveds: Christ is such an one; he has all the accomplishments and perfections of the divine and human nature to make him so. Again, the daughters of Jerusalem putting such a question as this to the church, shows, (1.) Their regard unto her, and compassion for her: the watchmen and keepers of the walls, as soon as ever they found her, without asking any question, who she was, where she came from, whither she was going, or whom she was seeking; I say, as soon as ever they found her, they fall upon her, smite her, wound her, and take away her veil from her; but these persons showed more regard and compassion; for, being willing to assist her in her present case, if possible, they stand conferring with her. (2.) It appears from hence, that these were inquiring souls, which discover a work of grace begun in them; for no sooner are souls awakened to see their lost state by nature, but they are inquiring the way of salvation; and having got some glimmering knowledge of Christ, and salvation by him, they inquire still more after him, concerning his person, office, and grace; and having some impressions of his love on their souls, inquire the nature of a church, and the ordinances of Christ therein; they ask their way to Zion with their faces thitherward.’ (3.) It is evident, from the question they proposed, that they were docible and teachable: they were willing to be instructed; they were not haughty, scornful, and above instruction; they did not think that they knew enough of Christ and needed to know no more, nor be instructed better; but being conscious of their own ignorance, and extremely desirous of being informed better, they put this question to her.

    III. This question is repeated by them; which shows the surprise that they were in at her solemn charge, and the stir she made about her beloved; and concluded from thence, that there must be some peculiar excellencies in him, which they had not been made acquainted with yet, and therefore repeat the question; as also to manifest their seriousness in it, and that they were in good earnest desirous of knowing Christ more and better; and likewise it is expressive of their importunateness to have a speedy answer from her.

    IV. Here is also that which gave occasion to them to put this question to her; and that was her strict and solemn charge in the former verse, ‘that thou dost so charge us;’ that is, so awfully and solemnly, so seriously and strictly, with so much warmth and vehemence: they were eye and earwitnesses to her sufferings at the hands of the watchmen, and to her courage, constancy and undauntedness therein; they saw that she was no ways discouraged by what she met with from seeking her beloved; but seemed rather by her solemn charge to them to be more warm and zealous, serious, diligent, and resolved to go on in search of him; and seeing all this, it put them upon inquiring what he was, what peculiar excellencies were in him, and what distinguished characters he might be known by. Thus the warmth, zeal, and liveliness of some Christians have been the means of stirring up and quickening, others to their duty; nay, the sufferings of the saints, and their courage and boldness therein,, have not only filled beholders with wonder, but have put their very enemies upon making inquiry into the religion they had suffered for; and to ask, who and what that Christ was, for whom they had underwent such severe tortures and punishments; and this has been the means of the conversion of thousands; which gave rise to that saying, ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church:’ and this is the gloss of R. Solomon Jarchi on this text, namely: ‘Thus the nations asked the Israelites, What is your God more than all gods, that ye are burnt and hanged for him after this manner?’ Next follows a glorious description of Christ, the church’s beloved, in answer to this question of the daughters of Jerusalem.

    VERSE 10. My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.

    THE church having, in verse 8 given the daughters of Jerusalem a strict and solemn charge, that when they found her beloved, they would tell him that she was sick of love, made them, in verse 9 very inquisitive after him; being as it were uneasy till they knew what he was, and wherein he excelled others; and therefore put this question to her, ‘What is thy beloved more than another beloved?’ to which an answer is returned by her, in this and the following verses; in which she first gives a more general description of him, and then descends to particulars. The general description of him is in the words now under consideration; in which she describes him, I. Positively, in regard to what he was in himself, as to his favor and complexion; ‘my beloved is white and ruddy.’

    II. Comparatively, as he may be considered with regard to others; ‘the chiefest among ten thousand.’

    I. She describes him by his favor and complexion, ‘white and ruddy.’

    Which some understand of his two natures, human and divine; who may be said to be white, as to his divine nature; ‘the ancient of days,’ the everlasting God, is represented in Daniel 7:9 as being clothed with ‘a garment white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool:’ the description which John, 1 John 1:5, gives of the Divine Being, is, that he ‘is light, and in him is no darkness at all;’ which is thought to be best represented by this color, which is simple, and has no mixture and composition in it. Christ is ‘the light of the world;’ he was known by this character to the Old Testament saints; he was prophesied of as the great light which should lighten the Gentile world; this was owned by old Simeon, witnessed by John, and asserted by himself: and then it is thought by these interpreters, that he may be said to be red or ruddy, as to his human nature. The first man, who was a type of Christ, and ‘a figure of him that was to come,’ was called Adam, which signifies red; and perhaps he had his name from the Hebrew word hmda adamah , which signifies red earth f110 , out of which he was formed, Genesis 2:7, so Christ is called ‘ the last Adam? 1 Corinthians 15:45, because he ‘took part of the same flesh and blood the children’ whom he loved, ‘are partakers of.’

    Now, according to this sense of the words, her answer is this; Would you know who and what my beloved is, and wherein he excels others? I will tell you, and be it known unto you, that he is no mean, common and ordinary person; no, he is a glorious and an extraordinary one; his name is alp pele, wonderful, a wonder, a miracle; and so is his person; two natures meet in him; he is God and man in one person; he is ‘the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh;’ and when you hear this, you will cease to wonder why I so charge you, and why I love, value, and esteem him above all others.

    Again others understand these words of Christ’s human nature only; and that he may be said to be white, because of the innocence, purity and holiness of his human nature; which was not tainted with original sin, as ours is, he not descending from Adam by ordinary generation; but was miraculously conceived in the womb of a virgin by the power of the Holy Ghost, and therefore it is called ‘that holy thing:’ neither was there any sinful action committed by him in all his life; but both in nature and practice he was ‘holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;’ he never sinned in thought, word or deed, though he ‘was made sin for us.’ Also they suppose, he may be said to be red or ruddy, on the account of his sufferings in this nature; by reason of which he may be represented, in Isaiah 63:1,2, as being ‘red in his apparel,’ and as being clothed with ‘dyed garments;’ for what with the buffetings and scourgings of his body, the crowning his head with thorns, and piercing his hands, feet and side, with the nails and spear, the garment of the human nature was like ‘a vesture dipped in blood:’ to this purpose is Alcuin’s note on the text, which is not to be despised; he is white, says he, because without sin; red, with the blood of his sufferings; ‘chosen out of ten thousand,’ because he is the only mediator of God and men. Now there cannot appear a more beautiful and delightful sight, to those who desire ‘to know nothing but Christ and him crucified,’ than to see the just Jesus suffering for unjust ones; him that ‘knew no sin, made sin for them;’ and the holy, harmless, innocent, and unspotted lamb of God, shedding his blood for the vilest of sinners: according to this sense, the church’s answer is; Would you know what my beloved is, and wherein he excels others? I will tell you, he is not black with original and actual sin, as you and I are; for though you see him red with sufferings; yet he was ‘not cut off for himself, but was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities;’ for in his nature and actions he is white, pure and spotless; and such a mixture of white and red, of innocence and sufferings, render him extremely amiable and lovely to me. Or else, As others have observed, these words may be understood of the different administrations of mercy and justice: Thus when Christ pardons sinners, ‘though their sins be as scarlet,’ he makes them ‘as white as snow; and though they be red like crimson, they become as wool;’ and when he justifies persons, he is said to clothe them in ‘fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of the saints;’ and when he promises glorification to them, it is in such words as these, ‘they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy;’ and so glorified saints are represented, ‘clothed with white robes, palms in their hands, and hallelujahs in their mouths;’ for all which see Isaiah 1:18; Revelation 3:4,5; and 7:9,13,14 and 19:8, and then when he is represented as taking vengeance on his enemies, and executing wrath upon his foes, he is said to be ‘red in his apparel,’ and to be ‘clothed with a vesture dipped in blood;’ for so they understand Isaiah 63:1,2; Revelation 19:13, and it may be farther observed, that the wrath which the Lord poureth forth upon the ‘wicked of the earth,’ is represented by a cup of red wine, expressing the fierceness and fury of it; ‘for in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and, the wine is red,’ etc. Psalm 75:8. And this agrees with the common notion of the Cabalistic doctors, that when God appears in mercy and kindness, then he may be said to be white; but when in wrath and anger, red: of this frequent mention is made in Zohar, and in other Cabalistic books: according to this sense, it is as if she should say, My beloved has mercy and grace for his people, which he bestows in a sovereign manner upon them; and he has vengeance for his adversaries, which he executes upon them according to the strictest rules of justice; and this mixture of mercy and justice, of white and red, renders him an extraordinary person; it makes some to love him, and others to fear him. Or else, These words may be interpreted of Christ’s battles and victories, and may represent him as a mighty warrior, and a triumphant conqueror: Thus in Revelation 6:4. the warrior, who had ‘power given him to take peace from the earth,’ is introduced as riding upon ‘a red horse;’ and in verse 2, he that ‘went forth conquering and to conquer,’ as riding upon a ‘white horse;’ thus Christ, who is ‘the Lord of hosts, the man of war,’ considered as fighting the Lord’s battles, may be said to be red or ruddy; and as returning from the field of battle, as a mighty conqueror, having ‘spoiled principalities and powers,’ and got an entire victory over all his and our enemies, may be said to be white. And now this great person, as if she should say, has done all this for me, and ‘made me also more than a conqueror;’ and this person is my beloved.

    But passing these several senses, which perhaps may be thought too nice and curious, though agreeable to the analogy of faith, yet it may be, will not bear so well here; though I choose rather to understand them of the beauty, glory and excellency of Christ, as mediator, without applying particularly these colors of ‘white and ruddy,’ to either nature, or to any particular actions performed in either: and I cannot but think that the church, in this description of Christ, has some reference to the account that is given of David, 1 Samuel 16:12. which is, that ‘he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look at.’ David was an eminent type of Christ; of his line the Messiah came, who is sometimes called David in scripture; and is both his ‘root and offspring, the bright and the morning star;’ and as described by David, is ‘fairer than the children of men,’ being ‘white and ruddy, which discovers the best temperature, the most healthful constitution, and the completest beauty: as mediator, he is a perfection of beauty; all divine perfections are in him; the glory of them all shine resplendently in his face or person; and they are all glorified in him and by him, who is ‘the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.’ There is also a mediatorial glory that he is possessed of, which is the result and consequence of his work; and which readers him exceeding fair and beautiful in the eyes of believers now, and is what they will, with wonder and pleasure, everlastingly gaze upon in another world: likewise as mediator, all fullness of grace dwells in him; and as ‘full of grace and truth, his glory appears as the glory of the only begotten of the Father.’

    Again, Christ, as mediator, is ‘white and ruddy,’ a perfection of beauty in the eyes of believers, as considered in all his offices of prophet, priest and king; and in all his relations, as husband, father, brother and friend, which he bears and stands in to his people: moreover, he is exceeding beautiful in their esteem, in all that he has done and suffered for them; but of this beauty and fairness o£ Christ, see more on chapter 1:15.

    II. Christ is here described by the church comparatively, as he may be considered with regard to others; ‘the chiefest among ten thousand.’

    The Septuagint render the words thus, ‘chosen out of, or from ten thousand:’ so Christ is both by God and men; he is chosen of God from among ten thousand, as man and mediator: when that large number of all the individuals of human nature, which tie resolved to create in time, came up in his vast and eternal mind; a certain number of them he for himself whom he meant to make instances of singled out his mighty grace and mercy, and therefore ordained them to life and salvation; and out of this select company, which he had in his eternal view, he chose the man Christ Jesus, and singled oat that single individuum of human nature only, to be united to the eternal logov , logos, the second person in the glorious Trinity; and therefore he is said to ‘exalt one chosen out of the people:’ he chose this glorious person to be the Savior. head, and mediator of his elect ones, that living stone, which is disallowed and rejected by some men, who would be accounted builders, is ‘chosen of God, and precious;’ he has laid him as the foundation, and ‘made him as the head of the corner;’ he knew that he was furnished with suitable abilities to be the sinner, savior, therefore he ‘laid help upon one that is mighty;’ he called him to the work, invested him with the office of a mediator, and appointed him his ‘salvation to the ends of the earth:’ and now, had all human beings been summoned together to have chosen a savior for themselves, they could never have made a better choice than God has made for them; with this choice every sensible sinner is well satisfied, and rejoices in it; and was it to be done again, would say, as the Psalmist did, ‘He shall choose our inheritance for us,’ Psalm 47:4.

    He is also chosen of men from among ten thousand: there is none among all the angels in heaven, the large number of inhabitants that fill the upper world; nor any among the vast crowds of the sons of men, so desirable to sensible sinners as he is: they make choice of Him only for their Savior i far being sensible that in vain is salvation hoped for any where else, they say of all the works of their hands, even of the best their hands ever wrought, ‘ye shall not save us;’ neither will we any more give you such honor, nor have such a dependence on you as to say, ‘ye are our gods,’ but Christ, and he only, shall be our salvation; and though he slay us, yet will we trust in him: they choose him for their ruler and governor, their Lord and King; and though they have formerly been under, and have submitted to the government of others; yet they now desire to be his subjects and servants only, and to be obedient to his laws and commands: they likewise fix on him as the alone object of their love, whom they have the strongest affection for, and desirous to keep the most inviolable chastity to; for though he is out of sight, he is not out of mind, ‘whom having not seen they love;’ nor can he be out-rivaled by any, being preferable in their esteem to all others.

    Moreover the Hebrew word may be rendered, a ‘standard-bearer f115 , or one standard among ten thousand.’ The church of Christ here below is in a militant state; she has many enemies to grapple with, which cause fightings without, and fears within; and though these enemies are mighty and powerful, crafty and cunning, yet in the name and strength of her Lord, she sets up her banners, and appears as terrible to them, and as majestic to others, ‘as an army with banners;’ and this banner, or standard, which is both her covering and her comfort in the day of battle, is love, according to chapter 2:4. It is the love of Christ, as a banner displayed, an ensign set up, and standard erected, which invites and engages so many to enlist themselves in Christ’s service; and, when enlisted, animates them to fight the Lord’s battles so courageously as they do; Christ, he is the standard- bearer, and the great ‘captain of our salvation,’ being by God the Father given as a ‘leader and commander’ to the people. Now Christ being said to be ‘the standard-bearer among ten thousands’ may be understood of the multitude, either of ministering angels f116 , who are under him and at his command; or of saints, who are enlisted in his service, and ready to do his pleasure; he having set up his standard, and being himself ‘an ensign to the people,’ multitudes flock unto him, and fulfill the prophecy of him, as the great Shiloh, to whom ‘the gathering of the people should be:’ herein lies the glory and excellency of Christ that he has ten thousand, that is, a large number of choice and select ones under his standard, such as there are not the like in all the world besides; and how stately and majestic does Christ look, and what a noble sight is it to see him bearing the standard before such a company! such a sight as this John had of him, at the head of a vast multitude of those shining ones, who were ‘clothed with white robes,’ and had ‘palms in their hands,’ having just obtained a glorious victory over their enemies, Revelation 7:9,13,14. Or else, the intent of the word is, that Christ is a more excellent standard-bearer than all others f117 : there may be ten thousand persons who carry a flag, but none of them all are to be compared with him, either for comeliness, strength or courage; none have such a choice and select company under them as he has; neither do any carry such a banner as he does, whose motto is love; and herein was he, who is ‘the lion of the tribe of Judah,’ represented by that tribe, which of all the tribes of Israel pitched their standard first, and had the greatest number under it; see Numbers 2:3,4.

    But these words by our translators are rendered, ‘the chiefest among ten thousand;’ and the sense of them is no ways opposed by the former versions; for if he is ‘chosen out of,’ and is ‘the standard-bearer among ten thousand,’ then he must be the chiefest among them; he is the chiefest among all the angels in heaven; for to ‘which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my son,’ etc. He is the Son of God in a higher sense than angels and men are; angels are the sons of God by creation, saints by adoption, but Christ is the Son of God by an ineffable generation; as he is God, he is the creator of angels, and to him they pay homage and adoration; they are his servants, and are at his command, whom he sends forth as ministering spirits, to do his pleasure; and though as man, in the state of his humiliation and abasement here on earth in the days of his flesh, he was ‘made a little lower than the angels;’ yet now in the very same nature in which he was abased below them, he is now exalted above them at the Father’s right hand; for ‘to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand,’ etc. as mediator, he has ‘obtained a more excellent name than they;’ for the name of a savior or mediator is given to none of them; and as such they are beholden to him, though not to make peace and reconciliation for them, they having never sinned and incurred the divine displeasure; yet they are obliged unto him for confirming grace, to secure them in that state in which they stand. He is also the chiefest of all on earth, as well as of all in heaven; in all things, and over all persons, he has the preeminence; he is the head of saints, their ‘everlasting father,’ and tender husband; he is the great master of the family, and ‘the first-born among many brethren;’ he is the King of saints, and Lord of the creation; and should be the chiefest, and have the chiefest place in the desires of our hearts, in the contemplations of our minds, the affections of our souls, and in our ascriptions of glory; for ‘he is the chiefest among ten thousand.’

    VERSE 11. His head is as the most fine gold; his locks are bushy, and black as a raven: THE church, having given a general description of her beloved in the former verse, pursuant to the request of the daughters of Jerusalem, does in this enter into a more particular commendation of him, and continues unto the end of the chapter: which commendation consists of ten particulars, two of which are in these words; I. She describes him by his head; which, she says, ‘is as the most fine gold.’

    II. By his locks; which ‘are bushy, and black as a raven.’

    I. She describes ‘his head as the most fine gold.’ Some think, that some ornament of the head is meant, as a diadem or crown of gold: or else, the hair of the head; which though afterwards is said to be black, yet, being powdered with gold dust, looked of the color of gold, especially with the rays of the sun upon it; as did the hair of Solomon’s youths that attended him, being thus decorated, as Josephus relates; and which custom of powdering the hair with gold, was used by some of the Roman emperor. By Christ’s head may be meant, either, 1st , God the Father, who is in scripture called so: Thus the apostle says, in 1 Corinthians 11:3. ‘The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God,’ that is, God the Father; which is to be understood of Christ as man and mediator; for as he is Gods the Father is not his head; he is not above him, nor superior to him in nature, power or glory; for ‘being in the form of God, he thought it no robbery to be equal with him.’ It is true, the Father is the first person in the Trinity; but he is not first in order of time, dignity, nor causality; some of the fathers and schoolmen have indeed said, that the Father, with respect to the other two persons, is fons deitatis, principium, causa, the fountain of the deity, beginning, and cause thereof; these phrases are better let alone than used: but he may very properly be said to be the head of Christ, as man and mediator; for as he is man, he is God’s creature, the work of his hands, ‘a body hast thou prepared me;’ and so subject to him, and under his power and government; and in this sense ,re those words of Christ to be understood, where he says, John 14:28. ‘My Father is greater than I;’ being his Creator, Lord, and head. And, 1. Christ as man and mediator, has his life from his Father; as he is God, his life is original and underived; it is not communicated to him from another; but his life, as man and mediator, is given him; he asked life of his Father, in the everlasting covenant, both for himself and for his people, and it was granted to him; and in this sense is that text to be understood, John 5:26. ‘As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself:’ as we derive our life from Christ, and have it maintained and supported by him; so Christ, as man and mediator, has his life from his Father, by whom also it is supported, he lives by him; ‘as the living Father hath sent me,’ says Christ, John 6:57, ‘and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me shall live by me;’ and in this sense is God the head of Christ; he communicates life unto him, as man and mediator, and continues it in him. 2. Christ, as man and mediator, is subject to his Father, as the members of the body are to the head: thus, as God’s ‘righteous servant,’ he was sent by him about the great work of man’s redemption, was obedient to him, and carefully observed all the commands which he enjoined him; he still is, and will be to all eternity subject to his Father, as man and mediator; for when all things shall be put under the feet of Christ, as King of saints, then he, ‘the Son shall be subject to him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all,’ 1 Corinthians 15:28. 3. Christ, as man and mediator, was guided and directed, taught and instructed by his Father, what he should speak and what he should do, as the great prophet in Israel, and Savior of the would; and this gives light to those scriptures, John 5:20 and 8:28 and 12:49,50 and proves the Father to be the head of Christ. 4. Christ, as man and mediator, was strengthened and supported in his work by his Father, as his head; this was promised him in the everlasting covenant; and was made good to him ‘in an acceptable,’ suitable and seasonable ‘time, in the day of salvation;’ in the day he wrought out the salvation of sinners; which animated and encouraged him in the view of all that he was to go through; see Isaiah 1:8 — to and proved him to be the ‘Son of man,’ whom God made strong for himself. Now this head of Christ ‘is as the most fine gold;’ here are two words used in the Hebrew text, which both signify gold; the one signifies pure, fine and shining; the other, strong and solid gold; and may also be rendered. the gold of Fez ; from whence either the city of Fez had its name; or else, this gold had its name from the land where it was in abundance; and perhaps is the same with the gold of Uphaz, mentioned in Daniel 10:5; Jeremiah 10:9; and this being the best and finest gold, the church uses it to set off the glory and excellency of Christ’s head: not that we are to suppose, as the apostle observes, Acts 17:29, that ‘the Godhead is like to gold and silver,’ etc. for no likeness and similitude can be formed of the Divine Being; and indeed the church seems to be almost at a loss what to compare this head to; but gold being the richest, most excellent, and durable metal, and the gold of Fez the best of any, she uses this to set forth the glory of it by: and yet, as not being satisfied, she says, it is as ‘the most fine gold;’ if there is any better, it is like that; or, as the words may also be rendered, ‘ his head is as the gold of gold; and it is as if she should say, I would compare it to gold, because I can think of nothing better, richer, and more glorious; but I cannot find gold good enough to compare to it; this is ‘the gold of gold;’ there is none such elsewhere; the whole universe cannot furnish us with the like; he that is my beloved’s head, is ‘more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey;’ yea, than all the golden mountains of Peru. Or else, 2dly, By Christ’s. head may be meant, the divine nature in him, which is the head, the chief and principal nature in Christ; in which his highest characters are wrote, and which puts a glory and efficacy in all that he has done and suffered as mediator; and it is this which supported him, and enabled him to go through the great work of man’s salvation: all divine perfections are in Christ, and these all shine resplendently in him, who is ‘the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person;’ this head is an head of pure, fine and shining gold; ‘all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in him;’ and the glory of it is very manifest and conspicuous, Or, 3dly, By Christ’s head may be meant, his headship over his church, or his regal power and government, which I rather incline to; thus he is represented, in Psalm 21:3 as having ‘a crown of pure gold’ upon his head, denoting his royal dignity and authority: so Nebuchadnezzar, or the large and flourishing monarchy which he was ruler of, is set forth by an head of gold, in Daniel 2:32-37,38. And now Christ, as Lord of the church, and King of saints, may be compared to ‘the most fine gold,’ because his kingdom and government is the most excellent and glorious; it is managed with the utmost wisdom and prudence, and according to the strictest rules of justice and equity; his head is a golden one, and fit for the work he is called to, for in it ‘are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;’ and therefore he is the only wise and just, as well as the only rich and powerful potentate in the universe; he is ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords;’ all others receive their crowns and kingdoms from him, and are set up and put down by him at pleasure; and therefore it is by him that ‘kings reign, and princes decree justice;’ all the wisdom and prudence, justice and equity, which appear in any of the governments of this world, are but faint resemblances of what of this nature appear in Christ’s government; he is the ‘head of gold,’ all the rest are but like ‘brass, iron and clay.’ 2. He is compared to fine gold, because his kingdom is pure and spiritual; at is ‘not of this world;’ it consists in nothing that is worldly, earthly and carnal; it is ‘not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ 3. Because, like gold, it is solid and substantial; it does not consist in external pomp and gaudy shows, as the kingdoms of this world, which yet are tiding, transitory, and perishing; but this, though it does not come with observation, but looks mean and abject in its outward appearance; yet is all of pure and solid gold, and will appear bright and glorious, when the gild of others is worn off and gone. 4. It is compared to the most fine gold for the richness of it: Christ is the richest prince in the world; his riches are lasting and durable; they are unsearchable and incomprehensible; his kingdom is the richest on earth, and the meanest subject in it is a prince, nay, a king; that may be much more truly said of Christ’s subjects, what the proud Assyrian monarch said boastingly of his princes, ‘Are not my princes altogether kings?’ Christ’s meanest subjects are so; for he has made them ‘kings and priests unto God?’ Revelation 1:6. 5. Christ’s kingdom may be compared to gold, because it is lasting and durable: Christ’s ‘throne is for ever and ever?’ there will never be any end of his government; nor of the increase of it, and of the peace and prosperity thereof; when all other kingdoms are destroyed, and all other rule, power and authority put down, Christ’s kingdom will stand; it wilt be more visibly set up, and appear more glorious, and so continue for ever. Thus Christ, as head of the church, and king of saints, may be compared to the most fine gold; which is the first particular she instances in, by which he may be known from others. The Jewish writers, by this head of fine gold, understand the law, which is more to be desired than gold; as they do by the locks in the following clause, the several letters, sections, doctrines and senses of it.

    II. She describes him by his locks, which, she says, ‘are bushy and black as a raven.’ By his locks may be meant, either, 1st , The thoughts, counsels and purposes of God, who is the head of Christi which, 1. Like the hairs of a man’s head are innumerable: the purposes of his heart concerning man’s salvation; his thoughts of love, grace, and mercy towards sinners, ‘cannot be reckoned up in order to him; they are more than can be numbered; the sum of them is so great,’ that they exceed the sand upon the sea-shore. 2. Like bushy and black locks, are intricate, dark and obscure, unsearchable and incomprehensible; God’s thoughts and purposes of distinguishing grace are out of our reach, and beyond our comprehension; and therefore are said to be ‘higher than our thoughts, even as the heavens are higher than the earth:’ when we seriously consider that the great and infinite Being should pitch his thoughts of love from all eternity upon poor, sinful creatures; and upon some, and not all; and resolve on their everlasting salvation, and not on others; it obliges us to say, with the apostle, ‘O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!’ Romans 11:33. 3. Yet these thoughts and purposes of God’s heart, so Jar as they are made known to us, are like bushy and black locks of hair, very beautiful and delightful: How glorious and beautiful is the draught, the model and scheme of salvation, which was drawn in the eternal mind? with what exactness is it managed? what wisdom and grace appear in that ‘fellowship of the mystery,’ which the gospel leads us into an acquaintance with? ‘How precious are those thoughts of love which run through all, as well as ‘ how great is the sum of them?’ Or, 2dly, By these locks may be meant, the multitude of believers, which grow upon Christ, as the head of the church and these may be compared to hair for their number, their dependence on Christ, and their reception of life and nourishment from him, as has been observed on chapter 4:1 and these being called locks of hair, may intend their being congregated in gospelorder, their being united in faith and love, and their walking together in all the ordinances of Christ; ‘endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.’ Now saints being thus joined together in holy fellowship, having strict regard to Christ’s truths and commands, do much adorn the head, Christ Jesus; and are a lovely and delightful sight to spectators; see Colossians 2:5. And these locks are said to be, 1. Bushy; the word may signify heaps; and so denotes the multitude of believers that spring from, and have their dependence on Christ, the head: or it may be rendered, thick, being well-set; or pendulous, hanging down in a beautiful order: and this may intend the ornament that believers are to Christ; ‘childrens’ children are the crown of old men;’ believers are ‘a crown of glory to Christ;’ they are ‘a royal diadem in his hand,’ and upon his head: or it may be translated, crisp or curled; and so be expressive of the hardness and strength of believers; curled hair being the strongest and hardest: believers though weak in themselves, yet are strong in Christ; not only to perform duty, but to withstand enemies, and endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ Jesus; they are ‘strengthened with all might in the inner man,’ to fight the Lord’s battles, are undaunted in their spirits, and immoveable as a rock. 2. They are said to be ‘black as a raven;’ saints are black with original and actual sin, as they are also with infirmities, reproaches, scandal and persecution; they have mean thoughts of themselves; and though exalted on the head, Christ, yet look upon themselves as the least of saints, and chief of sinners: though I rather think, this does not intend their blackness by sins, infirmities, etc. nor their humble thoughts of themselves; but rather, their real beauty, which they have from Christ, and that ornament and glory which they are unto him. Or else, 3dly, By these locks may be meant, Christ’s administrations in the discharge of his kingly office: and this seems to me to be the best sense; for, as by his head, is intended his regal power and government; so by his locks, the administrations of it; which though sometimes dark, intricate and obscure, being attended with severity to his enemies, and so may be said to be bushy and black; yet being managed with the utmost wisdom and prudence, and according to the strictest rules of justice and equity, look very beautiful and comely, and are admired and; wondered at by all the saints; see Revelation 15:3,4.

    Moreover in general these bushy and black locks of Christ may denote, 1. The fullness of wisdom which is in Christ; curled hair is a sign of an hot and dry brain, which produces acuteness and sharpness of wit: all wisdom is in Christ; he is the wisdom of God; who has not only fullness of it for himself, which is requisite to qualify him for, and carry him through the work he is engaged in; but has also a fullness of it: for the saints, to whom ‘he is made of God wisdom as well as righteousness.’ 2. His youthful strength, vigor and courage, of which his black hair is accounted a sign: in Revelation 1:14. Christ’s hair is said to be ‘as white as wool, as white as snow,’ to denote his senile gravity; that he is ‘the ancient of days; who exists from everlasting to everlasting:’ but here his locks are said to be black, to set forth his juvenile vigor and strength, which is always in its bloom, without any change or alteration: he is the mighty God in his highest nature, and ‘mighty to save,’ as mediator; he gave the fullest proofs of his strength and courage in fulfilling all the law required, in bearing all that justice inflicted, and in conquering all his and our enemies. 3. These black locks set forth the beauty of Christ: black hair was accounted the most beautiful, not only by the Jews but by the Romans; as is manifest from what is said by many of the poets, concerning both men and women: it was very desirable to them; insomuch that these, whose hair was not naturally black, used various ways and methods to make it so, and among other things, both Pliny and AElianus tell us, they used the eggs, brains, and blood of ravens for that purpose. Now when Christ’s locks are said to be black as a raven, the meaning is, that he looks exceeding beautiful, being ‘fairer than Absalom,’ or any of the children of men; his black shining locks, hanging down in a beautiful order from his head of gold, make him look very stately and majestic; and as the blackness of the raven is a very fine black, and what is natural to it, and not made by art; so the beauty of Christ is exceeding great, it is natural to him; it is not derived from another, as ours is from him, but what is original, underived and essential to him; and this proves him to be the most excellent beloved, and ‘the chiefest among ten thousand.’

    VERSE 12. His eyes are as the eyes of doves, by the rivers of water, washed with milk, and fitly set.

    THIS is the third instance of Christ’s beauty, or distinguishing character of him, which the church gives to the daughters of Jerusalem, whereby they might know him from others; having described him by his head and hair, she here describes him by his eyes; the order and method in which she proceeds is very just and natural. By his eyes may be meant, either, First, The gifts and graces of the Spirit which are in Christ. as man and mediator; who is represented, in Revelation 5:6 as a lamb that had been slain for the sins of men, with even eyes, which are said to be ‘the seven spirits of God;’ not that there are seven-personal, distinct, divine subsistencies, which are called so; but the phrase intends that variety, fullness and perfection of the gifts and grace of that one Spirit of God, who is the third person in the blessed Trinity; which gifts and grace of his, being bestowed on Christ, as man and mediator, furnished and qualified him for his work; of which seven spirits or various gifts of the Spirit, which he received for this purpose, you may read in Isaiah 11:2-4. Now these may be said to be ‘as the eyes of doves by the rivers of water;’ because the Spirit of God did in an eminent and public manner descend upon him, as a dove, at the time of his baptism in the river of Jordan: and they may also be said to be as doves, or as the eyes of doves ‘washed with milk, to express the purity and holiness of his nature, sanctified thereby; for, as man and mediator, he was holy harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners: likewise they may be said to be as the eyes of doves fitly set, or set in fullness, because the Spirit was not given to him by measure, but in fullness; the whole fullness of the gifts and grace of the Spirit is given to him; and therefore he appears ‘full of grace and truth,’ and from hence they are communicated unto men. Or else, Secondly, By his eves may be meant the church’s teachers, or ministers of the gospel; who, as they are the mouth by whom Christ speaks, so they are his eyes, by whom he sees, provides for, and watches over his church and people; and therefore are called watchmen, whose business is to watch for, and over the souls of men: these are the eyes which give light unto, guide and direct the members of Christ’s body; who-point out unto them the way of salvation, and guide their feet into the way of peace. Now these may be said to be as the eyes of doves, on the account of those dove-like gifts of the Spirit, by which they are fitted for their work, and made able ministers of the New Testament; also for their honesty, faithfulness, and simplicity in preaching the everlasting gospel; and likewise for that harmlessness and innocence, which do and ought to appear in their lives and conversations. These may also be said to be as doves, or as the eves of doves by the rivers of water, which may intend the scriptures of truth; f139 for as doves delight to sit by rivers of water, so do the ministers of the gospel delight to be reading of, and meditating upon the scriptures, which is their work and business: and from hence they fetch the doctrines they preach to others; they speak according to the oracles of God; and that ‘not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual,’ 1 Corinthians 2:13.

    Likewise they may be said to be as doves, or as the eyes of doves washed with milk, because of their light and knowledge in the gospel, which is the sincere milk of the word; whereby they are made capable of feeding others with the plain and wholesome truths of the gospel: or else this phrase may intend that pure and spotless conversation, which they ought to lead as examples to others in faith and purity. Whey may also be said to be tidy set; ‘for God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly’ teachers,’ etc., 1 Corinthians 12:28, this was the fit and beautiful order in which the first ministers of the gospel were placed by God himself; and indeed all the ministers of it are fitly set in the more eminent part of the body, the church, to overlook, direct, and be useful to the several members of it. But these seem rather to be the eyes of the church, than the eyes of Christ, which also are compared to dove’s eyes in chapter 1:15.

    Thirdly, To understand by these eyes, the omniscience of Christ: R. Aben Ezra seems to understand them of God’s omniscience; for his comment is that text in Proverbs 16:3. The eyes of the Lord are in every place.

    Christ is the omniscient God; every creature is made manifest in his sight; all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do; who is the living word, and a critical discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart: in the days of his flesh here on earth, he needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man; and gave convincing proofs to the Scribes and Pharisees, that he was well acquainted with the secret thoughts of their hearts: Peter bore a noble testimony to Christ’s omniscience, when he appealed to him, saying, ‘Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.’ And indeed was he not the omniscient God, how could he be capable of acting as the head of his church, or as the mediator between God and man, or of judging the world at the last day? but then he will give an incontestible proof of this divine perfection’s being in him; he will let all the churches, and all the world know, that he it is which searcheth the reins and hearts. Now when these eyes of Christ’s omniscience are fixed on persons in a way of wrath and anger, they are said to be as flames of fire; especially when fixed upon heretics, idolators, false worshippers, or any of his and his church’s enemies; see Revelation 1:14 and 2:18,20-23, and 19:11,12,15, but when they are fixed in a way of special love and grace upon his own people, they may be said to be, 1st, As the eye of doves, which are loving, lovely, clear and chaste,1. Christ’s eyes may be said to be as doves, because of the lovingness of them; the eyes of doves are not fierce and furious, as the eyes of some creatures are; there are no fury in Christ’s eyes, as fixed upon his people: ‘The eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;’ that is, his eye is upon poor trembling sinners, who come to the throne of grace, and prostrate themselves at his feet, humbly imploring his grace and mercy, and venturing on him as sinners ready to perish; his eye is upon them all the while; not to destroy them, and cut them off from his sight; but to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine: his eyes are upon all his righteous ones; not to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth, which he threatens to the wicked, but to deliver them out of all their troubles: his eyes are upon all creatures, and all things, for they run to and fro throughout the whole earth; but then it is to show himself strong in the behalf of them, whose heart is perfect towards him: his eye of love is always upon his people, to succor, relieve, protect, and defend them: his eye is upon them under all their trials, temptations, desertions, sorrows and afflictions: his eye is upon them when in the furnace, to observe the exercise of their grace upon him, their carriage to him; and when tried, to deliver out of it; for his eyes behold, and his eyelids try the children of men, 2. They may be compared to dove’s eyes, because they are lovely, as well as loving; and it is for this reason he compares the church’s eyes to doves, in chapter 1:15 and <220401> 4:1. Every part of this description serves to set off the beauty and loveliness of Christ’s eyes; they are said to be ‘as the eyes of doves by the rivers of water,’ because doves delight to sit there; where being pleased with the pure and purling streams, their eyes look more quick and lively, and so more beautiful and lovely. Also they are said to be as doves washed with milk; either as milk-white doves, which look very pleasant and delightful; or as doves washing themselves in streams of water, look as clean as if they had been washed in milk: likewise they are said to be as the eyes of doves fitly set; that is, neither too much staring out, nor too much sunk within; neither hollow-eyed nor goggle-eyed, which are both extreme deformities in the eye. 3. They may be compared to doves eyes, because of their clearness and perspicuity; Christ’s eyes are so clear, he is so sharp-sighted, that he can see all persons, and things in all places, at one view; for ‘the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good:’ more especially his eyes behold, and he takes cognizance of his own people; these he knows by name, and distinguishes them in his care and affections from all others; he sees and knows all their wants perfectly well, is able to supply them, and has an heart to do it; and seeing that ‘all things are naked and open unto him, with whom they have to do at the throne of grace,’ they are encouraged to come thither with the greater Boldness; he sees and knows all the centrivances and designs of wicked men against his people, though formed in the dark; for the darkness and the light are both alike to him; his eyes are so clear, sharp and penetrating, that there is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves: and this makes much for the comfort of his people, as well as serves to command and set off the loveliness and excellency of him. 4. They may be compared to doves eyes for their faithfulness and chastity:

    Christ is faithful to God, who appointed him to be the mediator and savior of his people; and to that covenant of grace which he made with him; in which he promised many things, which are fully performed by him; and he received many blessings of grace for his people, which he is faithful to distribute unto them and bestow upon them he hath given meat to them that fear him, as an indication that his eye is upon, and that he will ever be mindful of his covenant; he has a respect unto it, and therefore calls those by his grace, and brings them to glory, who are interested in it: also as the eye of the dove is only upon its own mate, is faithful and chaste unto it, and has no regard to another; so Christ’s eye of love is only upon his church; as she is his dove, so she is his only one: hence he says, ‘my dove, my undefiled is but one;’ and as he loves her above all others, so he loves none but her with his special and peculiar love, in Which he always rests and continues. 2dly, Christ’s eyes of love, as fixed on his own people, are as the eves of doves by the rivers of water. Now this sets forth the loveliness and beauty of Christ’s eyes, as has been already observed; the eyes of doves being more brisk, quick and lively, when sitting by rivers of water, where they are delighted in and pleased with the clear and running streams thereof: and may also lead us to observe these two things; 1. The fixedness and constancy of Christ’s eye of love being set upon his own people: doves sitting by a river side, keep their eyes fixed upon the purling streams; and in drinking, as Pliny observes, do not resupinare colla, erect their necks, and lift up their heads, but keeping their eyes fixed upon the water, drink a large draught of it in the manner of beasts: Christ, being sweetly delighted with his own people, has fixed his eye upon them. and never removes it from them; he withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous; his eye was upon them before time, continues so in time, and will be so to all eternity; for having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end, 2. It may intend the object of Christ’s love: some of the Jewish writers, f142 by the rivers of water, would have their schools and synagogues intended; where the waters of the law flow, the difficulties of it are explained, and its proper senses given: but they may be much better understood of gospel- churches, made up of righteous persons; who are justified by Christ’s righteousness; sanctified by his grace; sprinkled with the clean water of the everlasting covenant; and who have low, mean, and humble thoughts of themselves; on such as these Christ’s eye is fixed, and to these he looks; see Isaiah 66:2, here the ordinances of the gospel are administered in their purity, the waters of the sanctuary flow, the doctrines of grace are powerfully preached, and souls hereby much delighted and refreshed. 3dly, These eyes of Christ are said to be as the eyes of doves washed with milk; and this is expressive both of the beauty and clearness of them, as has been already observed: eyes, when washed, are clearest, and so most.lovely; like milk-white doves, which look the most beautiful, especially when they have just washed themselves: respect may be had to the color of doves; white doves were had in esteem in Palestine and Syria. And this may also intend the purity of Christ’s eyes, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, with any pleasure or approbation; and likewise the meekness and mildness of them: his eyes are not red and furious, but look as if they had been washed with milk, being full of mercy, pity and compassion to poor sinners; his heart is full of it, and his actions, as Godman and mediator, give the strongest proofs of his being a merciful as well as a faithful high priest, 4thly, These eyes are said to be fitly set, or fitting by fulness; that is, by full channels of water. Christ himself is as rivers of waters, which denote the fullness and abundance of grace that is in him; and by these full fountains of grace, life and salvation, he sits, dwells and abides; and thither he, the lamb in the midst of the throne,’leads his people. Or the words may be rendered, ‘sitting in fullness;’ and so it expresses the loveliness and beauty of Christ’s eyes, as has been already observed: his eyes were neither sunk too low within, nor stood too much out, but exactly filled their holes; they were fitly set as diamonds in a ring, or as precious stones in the breast-plate of the high-priest, which exactly filled the cavities which were made for them, and therefore were called stones of fullness; see Exodus 25:7 and 28:17,20, so R. Solomon Jarchi and R. Aben Ezra understand the words; tho’ they may be better translated, ‘sitting upon fullness’. f146 Christ’s eyes are set or sitting, 1. Upon the fullness of this world; ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness of it;’ as he has a right unto it, so his eyes are upon it; for ‘his eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth;’ they are an every place at one and the same time, beholding at one view the evil and the good, all their persons, and all their actions; his eye is upon that vast number of persons and things that fill the whole universe, and upon the large variety of actions performed there: now this sets forth the extensiveness of Christ’s omniscience, and that general and universal knowledge he is possessed of; which sense is much favored by R. Sol. Jarchi’s note on the words. 2. Christ’s eyes were set, or sitting upon the fullness of time in which he was to come into the world, and perform the great work of redemption; for as he was appointed to be the author of this work, and the persons were pitched upon whom he was to redeem, so the time was also fixed when he was to do it; and this is called ‘the fullness of time,’ in Ephesians 1:10; Galatians 4:4; and now, from the first making of the everlasting covenant, down throughout the whole Old Testament dispensation, Christ’s eye was fixed on this fullness; waiting, watching, as it were longing till the time was come, when he should appear in human nature, and do the work which his heart was so much set upon; witness his many appearances in an human form before his incarnation, and the frequent notices he gave of his near approach. 3. Christ’s eyes are set, or sitting upon his fullness, the church, whom in the fullness of time he came into this world to redeem: the church is called so, in Ephesians 1:23, which ‘is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all;’ and then is she, and will she appear to be so, when all his elect ones are called by grace; and these all filled with those gifts and graces of the Spirit designed, for them, by him who is ascended to fill all things; and more especially when they are all grown up in proportion, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: now Christ’s eye is upon his church, and upon every member of it, until all this is done; and will be so when time shall be no more. 4. His eyes were, and still are set, or sitting upon the fullness of the Gentiles, until that is brought in: his eye was upon them in the everlasting covenant; therefore both he and his Father thought fit that he should be not only the redeemer of Israel, but a light to the Gentiles also, and be God’s salvation unto the ends of the earth: his eye was upon them during the Old Testament dispensation; and therefore gave out many promises and prophecies concerning their calling: his eye was upon them when he died and suffered; and therefore he became a propitiation, not for the Jews only, but also for the Gentile world: his eye was upon them when he gave the commission to his disciples to preach the gospel; and therefore bid them ‘go into all the world, and preach it to every creature;’ which he owned for the conversion of thousands: and his eye is still upon them, and will be so, until all those other sheep are brought in which are not of the Jewish fold. 5. His eyes are set, or sitting on his own personal fullness as God; for ‘in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily:’ his eye was upon this when he undertook the work of redemption, and so it was when he was actually concerned in it; therefore he failed not, neither was he discouraged; this supported him under it, and comfortably carried him through it. 6. His eyes are set, or sitting upon his fullness as mediator; which is a dispensative, communicative fullness put into his hands, to be distributed to his people; and his eye is continually upon it, to supply the wants of his people out of it, under all their straits, difficulties, temptations, sorrows, and afflictions: and where Christ’s eyes are fixed, there should ours be also; we should be continually looking to, and be strong, not in ourselves, but in ‘the grace which is in Christ Jesus.’

    VERSE 13. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.

    IN these words are the fourth and fifth particular instances of Christ’s beauty; for having described him by his head, locks, and eyes, she here describes him by his cheeks and lips; still keeping in a beautiful and regular order in her description of him. And, First, She describes him by his cheeks; which, she says, ‘are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers:’ by which we are to understand, not the smooth and naked cheeks, but with hair growing upon them, which best suits with the metaphor of a bed of spices; for as aromatic plants and sweet-smelling flowers bud out, and spring up from a bed of spices, and make it look very beautiful; so the hair of a man’s beard puts itself forth, and grows upon his cheeks, or jaws, as the word may be rendered, and makes him look very graceful and majestic: R. Aben Ezra understands by his cheeks, his beard; as also do many Christian Interpreters. f148 And this was literally true of Christ; who was not ‘an infant of days,’ but a man grown up, when he suffered in the room and stead of sinners; as is manifest from his ‘giving his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to those that plucked off the hair.’ The cheeks rising, and being a little elevated, are fitly described by beds in a garden; or fragrant flowers, or fruit trees, reared up in the form of towers, as some render the word, or pyramids; or by a dish of sweetmeats placed in such a figure: and the hair of the cheeks or beard, are aptly represented by spices, rising up from a bed of them; and all denote the beauty, savor and majesty of Christ: or, as the Vulgate Latin version, ‘as beds of spices set by confectioners; not as aromatic plants, set in rows by the gardener; but as the spices themselves, set in rows by the confectioner in vessels, or placed in such a manner in his shop to be sold, which being of various colors, especially red and white, the cheeks, for color and eminence, are compared to them. And being taken in a mystical and spiritual sense, may intend, either, 1st, Believers, who are the hair of Christ’s cheeks, as well as of his head: these grow upon him, receive their life and nourishment from him, and are ornamental to him: these are as ‘a bed of spices and sweet flowers;’ for, being ‘perfumed with the myrrh and frankincense’ of his grace, they ascend upwards in the exercise of faith, hope and love, as ‘towers of perfumes, f151 as the words translated sweet flowers may be rendered; they are fruitful in themselves, like a spicy bed, odoriferous to Christ, and delightful to each other. Or else, 2dly, The graces of the Spirit which are in Christ as man and mediator: these, like the hair of a man’s beard which grow upon his cheeks, adorn the man Christ Jesus, and render him very lovely and graceful; these grow in large numbers on him; he is ‘full of grace and truth;’ and though there is a large communication of grace made daily to believers from this fulness which is in Christ; yet it is no way lessened thereby, even as the hair of a man’s beard, which the oftener cut, the thicker and faster it grows. Now these lovely cheeks thus adorned, may be said to be ‘as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers,’ because of their beauty and loveliness; no spicy bed, set and filled with aromatic plants and sweet-smelling flowers, can be more lovely and delightful to the eye of sense, than Christ, with all his grace, is to the eye of faith; the reason why he appears to a believer ‘fairer than the children of men,’ is, because grace, in all its fullness, ‘is poured into his lips:’ also they may be compared to these, because of the sweet odor of them; the effluvias of the sweet flowers and most fragrant spices growing in large numbers, in beds of them, cannot be more grateful to the smell, than the graces of Christ are to believers; and therefore they are compared to ointments, the savor of which cheats the minds, and attracts the hearts of his people to him: this oil of gladness being powered plentifully on his head, runs clown his beard, and so to every part of his garments; which makes them all ‘smell of myrrh, aloes and cassia;’ and renders him, and all that belong, to him, sweet, savory, and delightful to his saints. Likewise they may be compared to ‘a bed of spices and sweet flowers,’ because of the variety of them: as in an aromatic garden there are various beds, and in those beds various spices, plants and flowers; so there is in Christ a variety of the gifts and graces of the Spirit; there are diversities of gifts, and all sorts of grace, which make up that fullness, from whence believers receive grace for grace, Or else, 3dly, This may be expressive of the manliness and courage, prudence, gravity and majesty of Christ; when the beard appears in men like ‘a bed of spices,’ thick and well-grown; it is a manifest indication that they are grown up to the estate of men, and are at years of discretion. Now Christ’s manliness and courage appeared in his boldly refuting the errors of the Pharisees and Sadducees; and in preaching the everlasting gospel, though he often ran the risk of his life in doing it; and to the very last he bore a noble testimony to it, and ‘witnessed a good confession’ of it before many witnesses: as alto he gave a manifest discovery of it at the time of his being ‘taken by his enemies; as well as in Pilate’s hall, where he was smitten, buffeted, scourged, mocked, and spit on; and yet in the midst of all, discovered the greatest undauntedness and composure of mind; but never more than while he was bearing his Father’s wrath, and the strokes of divine justice, grappling with his and our enemies, and undergoing a painful and ignominious death; for under all this he failed not, neither was he discouraged. His ‘cheeks being as a bed of spices,’ shew him to be endued with manliness and courage, which he thus discovered; as they also show his prudence and gravity, which he manifested in all his discourses, ‘questions and answers; for ‘ in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;’ for at twelve years of age, when the lovely down scarce appeared upon his cheeks, he discoursed with so much wisdom and gravity, put such questions to the doctors, and returned such answers to theirs, as filled them with wonder and surprise: and much more did he so, when his ‘cheeks were as a bed of spices;’ when he was grown up to man’s estate, and was entered upon his public ministry; he spake with so much wisdom and authority, that his audience was amazed at him; he dealt so prudently, according to the prophecy of him, that the subtle Scribes and Pharisees did not care to meddle with him; for as they could not answer his questions, so they dare not put any to him; his enemies themselves being witnesses, ‘never man spake like him.’ And this prudence and gravity of his appeared throughout the whole conduct of his life; his words were with power and authority; his deportment was grave and serious; and his walk and conversation, as it was in all holiness and righteousness towards God, so it was in all wisdom and prudence towards men.

    But if by cheeks, we understand that part of the face as smooth and naked, without the additional consideration of hair upon them; then by them may be meant, either, 1st, The scriptures of truth. The Targum understands them of the two tables of stone, which were written in ten lines, like the rows or beds of an aromatic garden, productive of acute and delightful senses; much to the same purpose does R. Solomon Jarchi give the sense of them: but it seems better to understand them of the whole word of God, the scriptures both of the Old and New Testament. These are as it were the cheeks or face of Christ, which represent and set forth the glory of his person, the virtue of his blood, the excellency of his righteousness, and the riches of his grace: these may be said to be ‘as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers,’ being in several distinct plots or beds: for this garden of the scriptures was not thrown up at once, and formed in that beautiful order in which now it is; but first one spicy bed was made, and then another; for ‘God at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets:’ these beds are set with a variety of ‘exceeding great and precious promises,’ and excellent doctrines; which the meditating soul, like the industrious bee, sucks much sweetness from: all those excellent spices, and sweet-smelling flowers which grow here, have their different usefulness; for ‘all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,’ Timothy 3:16. And as aromatic plants and fragrant flowers are delightful to the eye, sweet to the smell, and refreshing to the senses, so are these truths and promises; they are like ‘apples of gold in pictures of silver’ to the eye of faith; diffuse a delightful odor to the smell, give a savor of Christ’s knowledge, when and wherever explained; and being held in the hand of faith, refresh all the spiritual senses, and are ‘the joy and rejoicing of the heart.’ Or else, 2dly , By Christ’s cheeks, may be meant his presence with his people, and the manifestation of himself unto them in his word and ordinances. Thus the presence of God is frequently called his face in scripture; as when saints are said to seek his face, or he is said to hide his face from them; which are to be understood of God’s withdrawing his presence from them, and their desire of enjoying it: thus Christ’s presence with his people may be set forth by his cheeks or face; which when they enjoy, they see him in his beauty, behold him in his glory, and are ravished with his love: and this may be said to be ‘as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers;’ for nothing is so desirable and delightful to believers as this; walking in the light of Christ’s countenance, is far preferable to walking among beds of spices, where the most fragrant plants and odoriferous flowers grow; nothing that is earthly and sensual, with all its affluence and pleasure, can so strike the carnal senses, as the presence of Christ does the spiritual ones. Or else, 3dly, The cheeks being the seat of modesty, bashfulness and blushing, may intend the humility of Christ; which appeared in his assumption of our nature, and throughout the whole course of his life, and more especially at his death: and this is a very great ornament to him, and renders him very delightful to his people. How lovely does the meek and lowly Jesus look! how beautiful are those blushing cheeks of his, who, though he was ‘equal with God, yet was found in fashion as a man!’ and though possessed of all divine perfections, and transcendent excellencies, yet always spoke modestly of himself; and did not seek his own, but his Father’s glory, and the good of his people.

    Secondly, Which is indeed the fifth particular instance of his beauty, she describes him by his lips; which, she says, are like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh:’ lips being the instruments of speech, and those compared to lilies, may be expressive of florid language and eloquence; so Lucian f153 describes the Trojan orators as having a lilian voice, that is, a florid and eloquent one. And by lips, may be meant the words of Christ; which are like lilies,1. For purity; ‘the words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times:’ Christ’s words are free from all pollution and defilement, from all scurrility and raillery, from all deceit and hypocrisy, and from all human mixtures whatever; and therefore his word is called ‘the sincere milk of the word.’ 2. His lips are compared to lilies for the beauty of them: and I suppose that not white lilies are here meant, but purple or red lilies; of which Pliny f154 speaks, the flower of which, he says, some call the rose-lily; so Maimonides speaks of red lilies, by which he interprets drwz the rose; which, he says, have a good smell, and of them it is said, his lips, like lilies, Song of Solomon 5:13 and also R. Alshech on the text: the best of these grew in Syria, in Antioch, and Loadicea; and these best suit with lips; for not white, but red lips, are accounted the most beautiful; and therefore Christ compares the church’s lips to ‘a thread of scarlet,’ in chapter 4:3. There is a beauty and loveliness in all Christ’s words; they are pleasant ones; they are gracious words, or words of grace, which drop from his lips; and indeed how can his lips drop any other? his speech cannot be but always with grace, and with gracefulness, when grace itself is poured into his lips. 3. They may be compared to lilies for the fineness, thinness, softness and delicateness of them: thinness, as well as redness, adds a beauty to the lips:

    Christ’s voice was not heard, his lips did not move in setting forth his own praises; for he sought not his own, but his Father’s glory; he did not speak for himself, but his words and actions spoke for him; he did as Solomon advised, Proverbs 27:2. ‘Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.’ 4. They may be compared to lilies for the sweet odor of them: Christ’s lips drop ‘sweet-smelling myrrh; his words, his gospel, and the doctrines of it, diffuse an agreeable savor; to some they are ‘the savor of life unto life;’ and though they are ‘the savor of death unto death’ to others, yet that does not arise from Christ’s words in themselves, but is owing to their being rejected, slighted, and contemned by men. 5. They may be compared to lilies for the glory and majesty of them: Christ says, that ‘Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of the lilies of the field;’ Christ’s words come with authority, and are clothed with power; ‘the voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is full of majesty,’ Psalm 29:4.

    Again, these lips of Christ are said to drop ‘sweet-smelling myrrh;’ for the construction is not with lilies, but with lips; for myrrh does not drop from lilies, but may be said to do so from Christ’s lips: though some think, the allusion is to crowns, made of red or purple lilies, wore at nuptial feasts, on which were poured oil of myrrh, and so dropped from them; but it is from the lips, and not lilies, the myrrh is said to drop. And here we may consider, 1st , The matter of those words which drop from Christ’s lips, which is said to be as ‘sweet-smelling myrrh.’ 2dly, The manner of the delivery of them, which is dropping. 1st, The matter of Christ’s words is like ‘sweet-smelling myrrh.’ 1. Grateful and acceptable as such; Christ’s lips drop the ‘sweet-smelling myrrh’ of peace and reconciliation to rebellious sinners, pardon to guilty ones, rest to those that are burdened, comfort to the distressed, and life to all his people: this he did in the days of his flesh, and still continues to do by his ministering servants; who are his lips, by whom he speaks, and are thought by some to be chiefly intended here; and so will his lips drop ‘sweet-smelling myrrh,’ the words of eternal life, when he shall say, ‘come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ 2. His lips drop words, for matter like ‘sweet swelling myrrh,’ preserving from rottenness, putrefaction and corruption: Christ’s words preserve from the corruption of sin; his doctrines are ‘according to godliness;’ they are so far from having a tendency to encourage persons in sin, that they are the best antidote and preservative against it; the doctrines of grace teach us ‘to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts;’ they are the means of implanting and maintaining principles opposite to them: they also preserve from the corruption of false doctrines, which are pernicious to souls, and ‘eat as do a canker;’ but Christ’s words are wholesome ones; and those whose hearts are established with them, are not ‘carried about with divers and strange doctrines;’ nor are they ‘tossed to and fro with every wind’ of error, but retain their steadfastness in Christ Jesus: likewise, wherever Christ’s words come with power, they preserve from going down to ‘the pit of corruption;’ for Christ says that whosoever ‘keeps his sayings, shall never see death,’ that is, the second death. 2dly, The manner of the delivery of Christ’s words; which, as the matter of them is grateful, this is grateful, and is said to be dropping, 1. Gradually, and not all at once: Christ did not speak all at once to his disciples, but by little and little, as they were able to bear it; they had not their light, knowledge and comfort all at once; no more have saints now, nor must they expect it; we are first babes, then young’ men, and then fathers in Christ. 2. Seasonably, at proper times, as the wants and necessities of his people require; for ‘God hath given him the tongue of the learned, that he may know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary,’ Isaiah 50:4. 3. Constanstly; his lips dropped sweet-smelling myrrh when on earth, and still drop it now he is in heaven; ‘see that ye refuse not him that speaketh;’ that now speaketh, continues to speak, and will do so until all his people are gathered in. 4. Powerfully and effectually; though his words do but drop, yet they drop with power; they make and leave impressions where they drop; they work effectually in them that believe. 5. Yet sweetly and gently; not like hasty and sudden showers of rain, which beat down the grass and corn; but as rain that drops gently and mildly, and so is acceptable to the earth, and makes it fruitful; ‘my doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew,’ etc., Deuteronomy 32:2.

    Now this graceful and agreeable manner of his delivery, as well as the grateful matter of his words, render him very acceptable to his church, and shew him to be a most excellent person, and ‘the chiefest among ten thousand;’ which is what she attempts to demonstrate, in this description, to the daughters of Jerusalem. The kisses of Christ’s lips, or the manifestations of his love, may be taken into the sense of these words which are as delightful as sweet-smelling myrrh; see chapter 1:2 and such a sentiment is expressed in the same language by others. f160 VERSE 14. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory, overlaid with sapphires THESE words contain the sixth and seventh particular in stances of Christ’s beauty, or distinguishing characters of him, whereby he might be known from all other beloveds, and wherein he was preferable to them.

    I. She describes him by ‘his hands;’ which, she says, ‘are as gold set with the beryl.’ II. By ‘his belly or bowels;’ which, she says, ‘is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.’

    I. She sets forth the beauty and loveliness of his hands, by comparing them with ‘gold rings set with the beryl;’ which is the sixth particular instanced in: it was usual in former times, as now, for gold rings to be set with one precious stone or another, and particularly with the beryl. And by his hands may be meant, either, 1st, The munificence and liberality of Christ, manifested in the distributions of his grace to his own people: all grace is in Christ’s hands, being put there by God the Father, as an instance of his love to Christ, as mediator, and his regard to those whom he made his care and charge; ‘the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hands,’ John 3:35, all fullness of grace is in Christ, of justifying, sanctifying, pardoning and adopting grace; all the blessings and promises of the covenant are in his hands; all fullness of wisdom and strength, light and life, peace, joy and comfort, is with him which is all lodged in his hands, in order to be distributed to God’s chosen ones: Christ, as the ascended Lord and King, ‘received gifts for men,’ and as such, gives them to them; the daily experience of souls testify it, for ‘of his fullness we all receive, and grace for grace.’ Christ does all this liberally, and upbraideth not; he does not do it with a reflection on our ‘unworthiness; nor does he hit us on the teeth of our manifold sins and transgressions: as he does not withhold the blessings of grace from those they belong to; so when he gives, he does not do it grudgingly, but freely and cheerfully; not sparingly, but plenteously; he openeth his hands wide, and largely communicates to his people: all which he does wisely and prudently, at such times and in such ways, as will best suit with their wants and necessities; for as a ‘wise and faithful steward’ of God’s grace, he gives to every one ‘their portion of meat in due season.’

    And now these hands of Christ’s, which so faithfully and wisely, so liberally, freely and largely distribute the blessings of grace to the saints, are as beautiful and lovely as hands adorned with gold rings, set with the most valuable precious stones: How glorious does he appear to the eye of faith, ‘as exalted to be a prince and a Savior, to give repentance unto Israel, and forgiveness of sins,’ with his hands full of grace, and a heart to give it! How beautiful do both his right and left hand look, in whose ‘right hand is length of days,’ and in whose ‘left hand are riches and honor!’ Or else, 2dly, By his hands may be meant his power in working: Christ’s hands have always been active; ‘my father worketh hitherto, and I work;’ that is, I have been working, and I continue to do so. Those hands of Christ, which are said to be ‘as gold rings,’ etc. laid the foundation of the heavens and the earth, formed all things out of nothing, reared up the beautiful structure of the universe, and filled it with proper inhabitants; for without him was not any thing made that was made:’ and in doing this, his hands look like gold rings; there is a shine, a luster on them; the glory of the divine perfections appears in them; ‘the heavens declare his glory, and the firmament sheweth his handy-work;’ these hands also bear up and support the pillars of the earth; and in this he appears to be the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, in that he upholds all things, by the word of his power: these hands likewise hold the reins of government; the government of the whole universe in general, as well as of the church in particular, is in the hands and upon the shoulder of our Lord Jesus Christ: but in nothing does Christ’s hands appear more beautiful and lovely, like gold rings set with the beryl, than in grasping, holding, and retaining the saints; who are put into his hand by God the Fathers where they are safe and secure; for out of his hands none can pluck: How beautiful do the hands of Christ look, in holding those bright stars, the ministers of the gospel there! for he ‘holdeth the seven stars in his righthand:’ and more do they appear so, when we view all the saints there; who are so many gold rings, jewels, pearls, and precious stones in Christ’s esteem. Or else, 3dly, By his hands may be meant, his works performed by his almighty power: as lips being the instruments of speech, intend Christ’s words in the former verse; so hands being the instruments of action, may intend his works in this; such as the works of creation and providence, which are all formed in a beautiful order, in a delightful connection with, and an agree, able subordination and subserviency to each other; his works of miracles here on earth, on all which were a shine of deity, and were a demonstration of his being the true Messiah and Savior of the world; and more especially his works of grace and redemption, which may be said to be ‘as gold rings set with the beryl.’ 1. For the perfection of them: the circular form is accounted the most perfect, and therefore they are compared to gold rings, which are of such a form; Christ is a rocks and his work is perfect, and particularly that of redemption: he does none of his works by halves; and especially this, which he never left till he could say, it is finished; and so being made perfect himself through sufferings, having perfectly fulfilled both the preceptive and penal parts of the law, he became the complete author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him. 2. For the excellency and glory of them; gold rings are valuable, beautiful and ornamental: all Christ’s works of grace are glorious and honorable; and more especially this of redemption, in which the glory of all the three persons, and the glory of all the divine perfections, is manifestly displayed, and eternally secured; ‘his glory is great in thy salvation,’ Psalm 21:5. 3. For the variety of them; gold rings, in the plural number, are here mentioned: Christ’s works of grace are many and various, they are more than can be reckoned up; and even in the work of redemption, there is an admirable variety; many are the things which he has wrought out, brought in, and procured by his precious blood; such as a justifying righteousness, pardon of sin, peace and reconciliation, liberty of access to God, deliverance from all enemies, sin, Satan, hell, and death, etc. 4. Christ’s hands in working out redemption, may be said to be as gold rings set with the beryl: this is one of the precious stones in the high priest’s breast-plate, mentioned in Exodus 28:20 and is one of the pearl foundations of the new Jerusalem, Revelation 21:20, the appearance of the wheels in Ezekiel’s vision, is said to be like it, Ezekiel 1:16, and the body of that great person who appeared to Daniel, chapter 10:6, is said to be as this stone; so that it is no wonder that Christ’s hands should be said to be as gold rings set with it.

    The Hebrew word Tarshish, here used, is sometimes the name of a person, and at other times the name of a place, and is used sometimes to signify the sea; and naturalists tell us, that the best beryl is that which most resembles the color of the sea; thus all the three Targums on Exodus 28:20 call it amy µwrk crum yamma, from its being of a sea color; and Junius and Tremellius here render it, beryllus thalassius, the sea coloured beryl: this stone is found in India; and being carried about by persons, is said to inspire them with courage to help them to conquer their enemies, and to put an end to strifes and controversies. Christ, whose hands are said to be as gold rings set with beryl, in working out man’s redemption, discovered the utmost courage, resolution and magnanimity of mind; when he was bearing his Father’s wrath, suffering the severe strokes of justice, and grappling with all his and our enemies; when he was deserted by his friends, forsaken by his God, and insulted by his enemies, he failed not, neither was he discouraged; when he saw that there was none to give him the least assistance, his own arm brought salvation to him; he stood the field, fought the battle alone, got an entire victory over all enemies, sin, Satan, and the world; saved us out of the hands of them all, and put an end to that grand controversy between God and us, occasioned by sin; he repaired that breach, made up that distance, and reconciled those two contending parties, by making peace between them, through the blood of his cross. 5. Some think that the chrysolite is here meant, as Ainsworth and others; which is a precious stone of a golden color, from whence it has its name; it is mentioned in Revelation 21:20 and is said to be good against melancholy, fear and folly, and to fill the mind with courage, cheerfulness and wisdom; which, being applied to Christ’s hands in working out redemption, may shew that Christ not only performed this work with courage, but with cheerfulness, and also with the utmost wisdom: his wisdom appears in all the works of his hands, as the psalmist says, <19A424> Psalm 104:24. ‘O Lord, how manifold are thy works, in wisdom hast thou made them all!’ but in none more than in this of redemption, wherein he hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence; this was so well contrived, and so fully effected, that all the divine perfections are glorified in it; he has herein secured the glory of justice and holiness, as well as given the greatest display of his grace and mercy; he has satisfied a broken law, and destroyed sin, and yet saved the sinner; herein appears the manifold wisdom of God; there is such a variety of it, and such a glory in it, that angels are amazed at it, and desire to look into it: Christ, as the great Redeemer, is not only the power, but also the wisdom of God; for in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; of which he gave the fullest proof when he was concerned in this work. 6. Others think that the hyacinth or jacinth is here intended; Pagnine renders it, ‘full of precious stones, like hyacinth; the Vulgate Latin and Tigurine versions render it the same way; this is likewise mentioned in Revelation 21:20, it is of a violet or purple color, for which reason the flower so called has its name; also it is said to be good against the bitings of venomous beasts; and being worn on the finger, and put about the neck, keeps strangers safe, and renders them grateful to their host: the bluish and purple color of this stone, and its ruby veins, which some say it has, may represent a crucified and bleeding Christ; when his precious hands, which are as gold rings, wrought out man’s salvation; by whose blue wounds and purple streams of blood, souls have a cure for every disease; and particularly for those wounds which their sins, those scorpions within, and Satan, that old serpent without, have made in them; for by his stripes we are healed; it is the precious blood of Christ, and spotless righteousness and glorious redemption wrought out thereby, which being applied by the Spirit, and laid hold on by faith, preserve souls safe from all enemies and evils, as sin, Satan, law, hell and wrath; and which only render them grateful and acceptable to God; for saints are only accepted in the beloved on the foot of redemption, and upon the account of his justifying righteousness; for the Lord is well pleased for his righteousness-sake, because he hath magnified the law, and made it honorable, Isaiah 42:21. 7. Others have thought that the sardonyx is intended, as Cocceius; this is an Arabian gem, and one of the principal ones; it is a composition of the sardius and onyx stones f169 , as appears from the name; it is of a white and ruddy color, and much resembles the nail of a man’s hand, set in flesh, both for color and smoothness; and it used to be set in rings, and wore on the hand; hence an hand adorned with one, is called sardonychata manus f170 ; and a ring set with this stone, was called sardonyche f171 : this is also mentioned in Revelation 21:20, and may represent the glorious deity, innocent humanity, and bloody sufferings of Christ, whose hands have obtained eternal redemption for us; it was necessary that he should die, in order to satisfy for our sins, which he could not have done, had he had any sin of his own; neither would the sufferings of this innocent person have been sufficient, had he been a mere creature, and not truly God: it is by the precious blood of Christ that we are redeemed, and by the blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot and blemish; and what made this blood powerful and efficacious to such a purpose, is the influence of the divine nature: all these three may be observed in one verse, Hebrews 9:14.

    II. She describes him by his belly, which, she says, is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. The generality of ancient interpreters f172 understand by belly, the human nature of Christ, which is expressed by this part, because of the frailty and weakness of it: Christ’s human nature, though not attended with sinful, yet with all sinless infirmities; he was encompassed with them; and was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs; and yet, like ivory, was firm, constant, and immoveable in sufferings, being supported and .strengthened by the divine nature, he appeared to be the man, of God’s right hand, the son of man whom he made strong for himself; and, like bright and white ivory, pure, holy, innocent and spotless; and now like bright and white ivory overlaid: with sapphires, being glorified and exalted at God’s right hand. Ivory is used to express the beauty of persons; see chapter 7:7, so the beauty of AEneas is described by it f173 ; even by such as has been in the hands of a workman, smoothed and polished by him, and so become bright, as here called: the sapphire is used to express the glory and majesty of the Divine Being, in Exodus 24:10.

    The Septuagint render it thus, ‘his belly is an ivory box upon a sapphire stone f174 ,’ and this serves very well to represent the body, and may very aptly be applied to the human nature of Christ, in which ‘the fullness of the Godhead dwells,’ and displays its glory: but the words may be better rendered, ‘his bowels are as bright ivory,’ etc., so the same word is translated in verse 4, and may express the love, grace, mercy, pity and compassion of Christ to poor souls; which may be compared to bright ivory,1. For the valuableness and excellency of it: the ivory is the tooth of the elephant, and is very valuable; Solomon made himself a throne of it, and overlaid it with gold; that is, studded it, and enameled it with gold, as this is said to be sapphires: nothing is so valuable as Christ’s love; the brightest ivory, the richest jewels, most precious stones, and excellent sapphires, are not to be compared to it; his ‘loving; kindness is better than life,’ or all the things which render life comfortable and delightful. 2. For the purity, sincerity, and chastity of it; there is no spot, stain, or blemish of hypocrisy and deceit in it; but like pure bright ivory, is without the least sully or tarnish: nor is there any reason for jealousy’ of it; both the ivory and the sapphire are observed to be preservatives of chastity; and though God’s children are often jealous of Christ’s love, yet they have no reason for it; for as he loves them above all others, so he loves none but them in that way; and he ‘rests in his love’ towards them, and is the ‘same yesterday, to day, and for ever.’ 3. For the firmness, constancy and durableness of it; ivory is firm and lasting; Christ’s love is so; it is from everlasting to everlasting, always the same, never varies, and will continue so for ever; for ‘having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.’ 4. For its reviving, refreshing and strengthening nature; ivory, to which Christ’s bowels are here compared, is said to be a great strengthener of the bowels and inward parts: Christ’s love being shed abroad in our hearts, revives our fainting souls, puts new strength into our graces, and makes us not ashamed or confounded, even in a day of trouble. 5. It is like bright ivory ‘overlaid with sapphires;’ that is, either covered with them, as the word signifies, or rather enameled with them: of this precious stone frequent mention is made in scripture; it is used to express the glory of God, Exodus 24:10, and the throne of his majesty is said to be as the appearance of it, Ezekiel 1:26, the beauty of the Nazarites is represented by it, Lamentations 4:7, and the glory of the church in the latter day: Isaiah 54:11, it was one of the precious gems in the highpriest’s breast-plate; and one of the foundations of the new Jerusalem: some of the Jewish writers say, that the two tables on which the law was engraven was made of this; it is a very clear and transparent gem f178 , of a coerulean or sky color, shining with golden specks; it is said to help those that are bitten with scorpions, to defend the heart from the infection of poison, and to cure intestine ulcers: this may all serve to set forth the glory and excellency of Christ’s love; it is this oil of love, grace and mercy, which being poured in by the good Samaritan, heals the wounds that sin has made, and preserves from the dreadful effects of its poison and venom. Albertus Magnus says, that the sapphire creates peace and concord, and renders the mind pure and devout to God; but whether this be so or no, it is certain that the love of Christ, discovered to a poor distressed sinner, produces calmness and serenity of mind, creates ‘a peace which passeth all understanding;’ removes that enmity, and weakens the remains of it, which is naturally in the heart of man against God, Christ, his gospel, people, ways and ordinances; there is nothing attracts our love to Christ as this does; ‘we love him because he first loved us:’ nor is there any thing that more engages our hearts in acts of obedience to him than this; it is this which lays us under obligation, constrains us to, and enforces on us a regard to all his commands and ordinances, and makes us most cheerful in our observance of them.

    But there are some interpreters who think, that not any part of the body is here described, as the belly or bowels, but rather that some covering of those parts is intended; and in, deed it does not seem so agreeable with the rules of decency, nor consistent with the spouse’s modesty, to describe her beloved by those naked parts to the daughters of Jerusalem; any more than it does with the scope of the place, which is to give some distinguishing marks and characters of him to them, that they might know him from another; but these parts being out of sight, and not exposed to public view, a description of them could be of no service to them in this respect; nor indeed does what is said serve so much to commend the belly, as it does some covering of it: R. Aben Ezra thinks the girdle about the loins is here meant; and if so, it may intend either Christ’s royal girdle, which is a girdle of righteousness and faithfulness; all his regal administrations being performed, as well according to the strictest rules of justice and equity, as with the utmost wisdom and prudence: or else, his priestly girdle, which is called a golden one, Revelation 1:13, and is no doubt an allusion to what the high-priest wore: or else, the covering intended may respect the embroidered coat of the high-priest, which covered his whole body; whose embroidery were holes or incisures, in which, as Jarchi says, were put jewels and precious stones; and so as the church described Christ as a prince before, she is thought to describe him here as a priest: or rather, the ephod with the breast-plate is here alluded to, in which were twelve precious stones, and, among the rest, the sapphire, on which were engraven the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; and it is certain, that the Targum on this place has reference to it; for it mentions the stones one by one, with the several names of the tribes engraven on them: and this may represent Christ, as the great high-priest, bearing all his elect ones upon his heart in heaven, having entered there in their name to appear and plead for them, and to take possession of glory for them in their stead, until they are brought into the actual enjoyment of it themselves f183 .

    VERSE 15. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. THESE words contain the eighth and ninth particular instances of Christ’s beauty, given by the church to the daughters of Jerusalem, or distinguishing characters of him, whereby they might know and discern him from all others. And, I. She describes him by ‘his legs,’ which, she says,’ are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold.’

    II. By ‘his countenance;’ which, she says, is, 1st, ‘As Lebanon.’ 2dly, ‘Excellent as the cedars.’ I. She describes him by his legs; which she says, ‘are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold;’ which is the eighth particular of this glorious description of Christ. The word translated legs, may as well be rendered thighs; which may very well be compared to marble pillars, both for form and color; especially when we consider, that it does not appear that the ancient Jews did in common wear any thing upon their thighs and legs, but only sandals upon their feet: or perhaps, by thighs may be meant, the femoralia f184 , or garments on the thighs, which were wore by the priests when they ministered in holy things. I have observed that some interpreters think, that some garment of the high priest, either his girdle, or his embroidered coat, or the ephod, with the breast plate, is intended by the belly, in the latter part of the preceding verse; so that as Christ was described as a prince before, he is now described as a priest; which description may be still carried on here. These femoralia, or garments for the thighs, were made of fine linen, Exodus 28:42. and so are very aptly represented by white marble; they are also said to be made of fine twisted linen, Exodus 39:28, which the Jewish Rabbins say, was of thread six times doubled; and therefore these breeches must sit very full and stiff, like pillars of marble: and this may set forth the pure mad spotless righteousness of Christ, which is called, in Revelation 19:8, fine linen, clean and white, it is this which covers our nakedness, hides the impunities of our nature, and renders us acceptable unto God. Moreover, below these breeches of the priest, was the hem of the holy robe, round about which were set pomegranates and golden bells; which perhaps may be meant by the ‘sockets of fine gold,’ on which those pillars of marble were set; and may intend the glory and excellency of the righteousness of our great high. priest, Christ Jesus.

    Moreover, in this description, the church seems to take in thighs, legs, and feet; his thighs and legs are compared to pillars of marble, and that very aptly; his feet are intended by ‘the sockets of fine gold; which either respects the sandals bound about the feet with golden ribbands; or the custom of some who used to adorn their shoes with gold and precious stones f186 : and that nothing may be wanting to set off her beloved as the most excellent, she represents him as having such sandals or shoes upon his feet; golden sandals on his snow-white marble feet and legs f187 ; for white marble is meant, such as Parian marble, so Aquila and Theodotion render it; or shoes gilt in the upper part, as noblemen in Spain wore, as Lyra on the place observes. And now Christ’s legs being said to be ‘as pillars of marble, etc.,’ may denote, 1st , The strength and power of Christ to bear tip and support what is or has been laid upon him: much of a man’s strength is in his legs; these are by Solomon called ‘the strong men,’ Ecclesiastes 12:3, and are the pillars and support of the body which, when they begin to bow themselves, it is an indication that this earthly tabernacle is ready to be dissolved: Christ is the rock of ages in whom is everlasting strength; his legs are as pillars of marble, as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold, firm and immoveable, lasting and durable, 1. To bear the weight of the whole universe f188 : the earth, with all the inhabitants thereof, would soon be dissolved, did not he bear up the pillars of it; as he made all things, so he upholds all things by the word of his power; with all the created inhabitants of it, have their dependence on him and are upheld by him; for as ‘he is before all things, so by him do all things consist.’ 2. To bear the whole weight of the covenant of grace: it was the business of the Levites to bear the ark of the covenant; but Christ is the covenant itself; he is so both materially and fundamentally; he is the matter, sum and substance of it ; he is the basis and foundation of it; all the blessings of it are upon him; and all the promises of it are in him, yea and amen: it is this which makes the covenant of grace, with all its blessings and mercies, sure, and renders it preferable to the covenant of works because it is ‘established upon better promises;’ which promises are upon a better foundation, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. 3. To bear all the persons of the elect: as the legs of a man bear and support the whole body, so Christ’s legs, which are as pillars of marble, bear up and support his whole body, the church: thus Christ bore and represented the persons of the elect in the everlasting covenant, and received all grace for them; and so he did when he hung upon the cross, when he died and rose again; and so he does now he is in heaven, even as Aaron bore the names of the children of Israel upon his breast-plate, for a memorial before the Lord. 4. To bear all their sins and transgressions: so Aaron bore the iniquity of the holy things of the children of Israel; and so did the scapegoat bear upon him their iniquities unto a land not inhabited; and therein were both types of Christ, who was manifested in our nature for this purpose; on whom God the Father laid the iniquity of us all, and who actually bore it in his own body on the tree; and by so doing, made satisfaction for it. 5. To bear all the punishment due to sin: sin being laid on him, he, as the sinner’s surety, bore the whole weight of his Father’s displeasure for it; he had not the least abatement of his wrath, but suffered the severest strokes of his justice; and yet he failed not, neither was he discouraged, or was not broken; it was enough to have broken the strength of men and angels; but he stood up under it, ‘his legs being as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold;’ when God banished Cain from his presence, as an indication of his displeasure for his sin, he cried out, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear;’ and indeed, who can stand in his ‘sight when once he is angry?’ and yet, what was this to what Christ bore in the room and stead of the elect? 6. ‘His legs are as pillars of marble, etc.,’ to bear the whole care and government of his church: the government of the church in general is upon his shoulder; and indeed no other shoulder is capable of it but his who is ‘the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace:’ it may be said of him, in a much more eminent senses what Paul said of himself, Corinthians 11:28, that ‘the care of all the churches was upon him;’ the care of every particular believer, as well as of the church in general, is upon Christ; for they cast their care upon him, who careth for them. 7. They are so, and need be so, to bear all the burdens of his people: there was a complaint of the Jews in Nehemiah’s time, Nehemiah 4:10, that the strength of the bearer of burdens was decayed, but this cannot be made of Christ, who is the bearer of his peoples burdens; for ‘his legs are as pillars of marble, etc.,’ he has said, Psalm 55:22. ‘Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee;’ he has both willingness and ability, a heart and a hand to do it. 8. To bear up his people under all their afflictions, trials, and temptations: ‘in all their afflictions he is afflicted;’ he supports and upholds them with the right hand of his righteousness; he suffers ‘no temptation’ to befall them, but what he gives strength proportionate to it, ‘that they may be able to bear it;’ he comfortably carries them through all the difficulties of life, and will not leave them till he has brought them to glory; for even ‘to hoary hairs’ he will carry them; he has made, and he will bear them. 9. To bear them up and keep them from falling: he is able to do it, and he will do it; he is that ‘sure foundation,’ on which their souls being built, ‘the gates of hell’ cannot prevail against them; and though they may be attended with many failings and infirmities, yea, with many slips and falls, yet they shall never fall totally and finally; for he ‘upholdeth them with his hand.’ 10. His legs are as ‘pillars of marble,’ etc. to bear ‘all the glory of his father’s house;’ for as he ‘builds the temple,’ it is proper that he should ‘bear the glory:’ Adam had a great deal of glory put upon him, in being made after God’s image and likeness, and in being the representative of, and a federal head unto all his posterity; but he ‘being in honor,’ did not abide long; the crown was too heavy for him, it soon fell from his head, he being a mutable creature: but Christ is ‘the same, yesterday, today, and for ever;’ and will for ever continue to bear the glory of the God-man and mediator, which no mere creature is capable of, being no ways able to effect the work. And now, when we consider all these things, Christ’s legs had need be, as indeed they are, ‘as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold.’ 2dly, By Christ’s legs may be meant, his ways and paths f189 , which he has trod in; for as legs are for the support of the body, so they are likewise the instruments of walking; and may intend, either, 1. Christ’s ways of love, grace and mercy in the covenant; ‘whose goings forth’ in it were ‘from of old, from everlasting;’ these were, like ‘pillars of marble,’ firm and constant; his ‘counsels of old are faithfulness and truth,’ and like such, ‘set upon sockets of fine gold,’ glorious and excellent; the steps which were then taken, the measures and methods that were then concerted, were all to advance the glory of the three divine Persons, as well as to bring about and secure the salvation of sinners. Or, 2. The path of the incarnation which he trod in, as never any did before or since: it was a wondrous stoop, a surprising instance of his mighty grace, that he should come down from heaven, and converse with mortals on earth in our nature; and the manner in which this was done is no less amazing, as well as it is an indication of his love to his people, to be a partaker of the same flesh and blood with them. Or, 3. His walk and conversation here on earth, which, like ‘pillars of marble,’ was always upright, even and constant: he never went awry, or stepped aside from the path of righteousness and holiness; but always acted in a perfect conformity to the law of God, which he made the rule of his obedience; and upon the whole of his conduct and conversation, there appeared a beauty, glory and lustre; so that his legs looked like ‘marble pillars set upon sockets of fine gold.’ Or else, 4. His walks in his churches, which are his ‘golden candlesticks;’ among whom he delights to be, and to whom his presence is very beautiful and glorious, delightful and desirable. Or, 5. His providential dispensations to his people, which are sometimes ‘past finding out;’ for his ‘way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters,’ so that his ‘footsteps are not known;’ he seems sometimes to come forth against his people in a way of anger and displeasure; and then ‘his feet are like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace,’ as they are represented in Revelation 1:15. But yet these are, (1.) Like pillars, straight and upright; for he ‘is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works’ and though wicked men, and sometimes God’s own children, through peevishness, impatience and unbelief, may say that ‘the Lord’s way is not equal,’ yet his is always equal, and theirs unequal. And, (2.) Like ‘pillars of marble,’ are firm and constant; for ‘he is in one mind, and who can turn him?’ and ‘what his soul desireth, even that he doth.’ And, (3.) They are like such pillars, ‘set upon sockets of fine gold;’ the basis and foundation of them are his eternal purposes and decrees; for he ‘worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:’ and this will all appear exceeding beautiful and glorious, when the book of purposes, ,and the book of providences are opened, and saints behold that delightful harmony and agreement which is between them; then will they sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, saving, ‘Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints, who shall not fear thee?’ etc. ‘for thy judgments are made manifest,’ Revelation 15:3,4. 3dly, These legs may set forth the power of Christ, in treading under and trampling upon all his and our enemies; so his legs were like ‘pillars of marble,’ etc. when he hung upon the cross, who then trampled upon and triumphed over sin, Satan, and the world; and so they are now he is in heaven, ‘for he must reign until he hath put all his enemies under his feet:’ Christ’s legs and feet, in the government of his church, and in the subduing of his enemies, are not like the legs and feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, in Daniel 2:33, whose legs are said to be ‘of iron,’ and ‘ his feet, part of iron and part of clay,’ which were easily demolished and destroyed;’ but Christ’s kingdom being a more glorious, durable, and lasting one, yea, an everlasting one, as in verse 44, therefore his legs are here compared to ‘pillars of marble,’ and his feet to ‘sockets of fine gold;’ his head and his feet are both of fine gold, which shows that his kingdom is glorious and excellent, and preferable to all others; and because Christ’s legs and feet are such, hence the saints are ‘more than conquerors,’ and shall have all enemies trodden under their feet. 4thly, Some by these legs understand Christ’s apostles, and the ministers of the gospel: who bear the name of Christ, carry his gospel, run to and fro, and diffuse ‘the savor of his knowledge in every place;’ are pillars in his house, are instruments to support and strengthen his interest; and are marble ones, constant and immoveable in their work, cannot be diverted from it, either by the frowns or flatteries of the world: and in the discharge of their work, are very beautiful; ‘how beautiful are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings!’ and what makes their feet so beautiful? because they are as it were shod with gold; they are ‘shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,’ with the golden truths of the gospel; and this makes them look like ‘pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold.’

    II. She describes him by ‘his countenance;’ or his appearance f191 , look or aspect; which is the ninth particular instanced in: by this is meant, not his countenance or look by which he beholds others; but that by which he is visible to, and beheld by others, and which recommends him to them; as his grand and majestic form, his tall stature, his graceful mein and deportment, and stately walk. And this she says, is, First, As Lebanon; which intends, either, 1st, The mountain of Lebanon; which was a large and goodly mountain, abounding with fruitful and fragrant trees, situated on the north side of the land of Canaan: to which Christ may be compared, 1. For the height of it: Christ, as God, ‘is over all, blessed for ever;’ as God-man and mediator, he has ‘a name given him above every name; he is, ‘higher than the kings of the earth,’ or than all the angels in heaven; he is of a more excellent nature, and has ‘obtained a more excellent name than they,’ 2. For pleasantness; Lebanon is called by Moses, that goodly mountain which before his death he had a great desire to see: Christ’s countenance, form or personage, is more glorious and excellent than Lebanon, or any other mountain whatever; he is ‘the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.’ 3. For the fruitfulness of it; Lebanon was a fruitful mountain for vines and cedars: on Christ all those ‘trees of righteousness’ grow, which are the Lord’s planting; from him they receive their life and nourishment, their verdure and fruitfulness; and by him they are supplied with all needful grace; for in him all fullness of it dwells, 4. For the fragrancy of it; hence we read that the saints smell is as Lebanon, Hosea 14:6, the trees and plants which grew there, were very odoriferous, and diffused a grateful smell to passers by: Christ’s person, grace, righteousness, sacrifice, and all that belong to him, are exceeding savory to believers; and hence it is, that he is in this song compared to spikenard, myrrh, camphire, the rose and lily, etc. Lyra interprets this, not of the mountain of Lebanon, but of the aromatic tree, lebanah, or frankincense; so Theodoret. 2dly , It may be meant of the forest of Lebanon. Some think, that she has a regard in this part of the description to the attire of the high-priest, in whose garments were curiously wrought the figures of animals, trees and flowers; so that when he had his robes on him, he might be thought in some measure to resemble a forest, and particularly this of Lebanon, which was esteemed the most excellent; and so may be expressive of the glory and excellency of Christ, as our great high-priest, so far exceeds Aaron and all his sons. Or else, 3dly , It may be meant of the temple, which is sometimes called Lebanon, as in Zechariah 11:1, and it may be very well called so, because it was chiefly made of the wood of Lebanon: and Christ may be very well compared unto it, for the stateliness and magnificence of it; as well because that all that belonged to it, or were performed in it, were eminently typical of him, and did gloriously prefigure him; and hence he calls his body the temple, in John 2:19. Secondly, She says, that his countenance is, or ‘he is excellent or choice as the cedars’ which grew on Lebanon; and her meaning is, that as the cedars in Lebanon were the choicest, and were preferable to all other trees, so was Christ her beloved to her: saints are compared to cedars; see Psalm 92:12 and Numbers 24:5,6, but Christ is the chief cedar, the choicest of all the cedars; in him these are planted and take root, and by him they are made fruitful; to these sort of trees Christ may be compared, for their tallness, stateliness, fragrancy and durableness; but these and all other things failing short to express his beauty, and set off his greatness, she concludes the description in the following words.

    VERSE 16. Former part. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely.

    IN these words we have, I. The tenth and last particular instance of Christ’s beauty, or distinguishing character of him, whereby he might be known from all other beloveds; ‘his mouth is most sweet,’ or ‘sweetnesses.’

    II. A comprehensive summary of all his excellencies and glories; ‘yea, he is altogether lovely.’

    I. She here describes him by his mouth, which, she says, is most sweet f192 ; yea, sweetness itself, and that in the highest degree of it; sweetnesses, as the word may be rendered f193 . And by Christ’s mouth here may be meant, either, 1st , The words of his mouth f194 . In this sense is the word used, in Proverbs 5:3 and 8:7, and by them may be meant, the ‘doctrines of the gospel;’ which are ‘the gracious words’ that proceed out of Christ’s mouth; and are sweet to believer’s taste, administer spiritual refreshment to his soul, and are preferred by him to his ‘necessary food:’ likewise the precious promises’ of it are the words of Christ’s mouth; which, if ever spoke to any purpose to a believer, they are spoke by Christ; and when they are so, they are exceeding sweet, and fill the soul with an unspeakable satisfaction. The kind invitations of the gospel also are not to be excluded, such as Isaiah 55:1; Matthew 11:28; Revelation 22:17, which manifestly speak out the love and grace of Christ to sinners; and when applied with power by the blessed Spirit, are exceeding sweet, comfortable, and refreshing to the consciences of distressed sinners. Moreover, the comforts which Christ speaks to his people, either by his Spirit or by his ministers, may be included here; as well as his commands, which also are the words of his mouth, which he has enjoined us the observation of, and which are no ways grievous, but joyous to a believer; especially when he has the presence of Christ, the discoveries of his love, and is under the influences of the Spirit of grace, whilst he is engaged in acts of obedience to them: these ‘statutes and judgments of the Lord,’ as they are right and just in themselves, so they are to believers ‘more to be desired than gold, yea, than fine gold; sweeter also than the honey or the honey-comb;’ for such is the grace of Christ, that what he has made the believer’s duty, he also has made his privilege; and hence it is, that all wisdom’s ways are ‘ways of pleasantness’ to him, and the words of Christ’s mouth are carefully regarded by him. Or, 2dly, The kisses of Christ’s mouth may be here intended, or the sensible manifestations of his love and grace to souls, which are what the church earnestly desired, in chapter 1:2, than which nothing can be more delightful to the saints: these give them more pleasure and satisfaction than all the things this world can afford; but both these seem to be intended before, namely, the words of his mouth by his lips, and the manifestations of his love by his cheeks; and therefore perhaps something different from these is designed here. And, 3dly, Some think, that Christ’s voice in his ministers is here meant; this is net omitted in that glorious description of Christ which John gives, in Revelation 1, and which bears some resemblance to this, and is there said to be as the sound of many waters: now if it is not intended here, it does not appear in this whole description; and whether the word be translated, ‘the throat, mouth,’ or ‘roof of the mouth,’ as it may be either, they are all the instruments of the voice, and so may be expressive of it: moreover, nothing is more common with lovers, than to admire each other’s voice; Christ was takes with the church’s voice, and therefore desired to hear it, in chapter 2:14, saying, ‘Let me hear thor voice — for sweet is thy voice;’ and no wonder then that the church should admire Christ’s voice, and that it. should make such sweet music in her ears, as it seems from hence it did; his mouth or voice is most sweet; I am charmed with it: and so would you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, did ye but hear it. The voice of the law is harsh and unpleasant; it pronounces guilty, curses and condemns; it is a voice of wrath and terror; it is a soul-cutting and soul-killing one; it is a voice of words, and of words that are not grateful; and therefore those who had once heard it, entreated that it might not be spoken to them any more: but the voice of Christ in the gospel is exceeding sweet, delightful and alluring; and no wonder it is so, for it is a voice of love, grace and mercy; it speaks peace and pardon, and brings the agreeable news of life and salvation by Christ to lost sinners; it is also the voice of the church’s beloved, of him whom she loves with all her heart and soul, and therefore must needs be sweet unto her; it is what she is well acquainted with, perfectly knows, and can distinguish from a stranger’s; nor is she ever more delighted than when under the sound of it; hence, in chapter 8:13, she says, as it is commonly understood, ‘O thou that dwellest in the gardens? where the companions hearken to thy voice,’ and are charmed and ravished with those warbling notes of thine, cause me also to hear it; for no concert of music whatever is equal to it. 4thly, The word translated mouth, may be rendered taste, as it is in chapter 2:3, or rather, ‘the palate or roof of the mouth,’ which is the instrument of tasting, as it is in chapter 7:9, and as the roof of the church’s mouth is there commended by Christ, why may not the roof of Christ’s mouth be here commended by the church? Christ has a palate or taste, that, as Job says, chapter 6:30, can discern perverse things; distinguish between the precious and the vile, knows the difference between the good and bad, and can tell what food is best for his people, and what a portion of it is necessary for them; and therefore gives to every one of them their portion of meat in due season: he has a taste that disrelishes all carnal and earthly things, even in his own people, as well as others; that savors nothing but what is spiritual; a believer being a compound of flesh and spirit, the spiritual part of him savors the things of the spirit, and the carnal part the things of the flesh; but Christ having no flesh, no carnal part in him, savors nothing but the things of the spirit: hence he provides no food for his people but what is wholesome in itself, and savory to them; and they may very safely eat of it, when Christ, whose taste is most sweet, has prepared it for them, set it before them, and bid them welcome; nay more, he himself sits at the table, and sups with them, and they with him. And, ‘his taste is most sweet,’ that is, the taste of him is so; ‘Come, taste and see,’ says the Psalmist, Psalm 34:8, ‘that the Lord is good;’ and every regenerate soul finds him so: Christ, and all of Christ, is sweet to a believer’s taste, his person, grace, and righteousness; what he is in himself, and what he has done for his people, are all so; and hence the church could say, in chapter 2:3, by good experience, his fruit was sweet unto my taste. Or else, 5thly, and lastly, By Christ’s mouth may be meant, the breath of his mouth f196 : which being most sweet, wonderfully recommends him to the church’s lave and affection. Job’s breath was strange to his wife; but Christ is sweet to his people, nay, sweetness itself; and by it we may understand, either, 1. The expressions of Christ’s love to his people: wicked men breathe out threatenings, cruelty, ruin, and destruction to God’s children; but Christ breathes out nothing but love, grace and mercy: fury is not in him, but mercy is; for with the Lord is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption; it is true, ‘the breath of the Lord is like a stream of brimstone,’ even an overflowing stream to destroy the wicked for with the breath of his lips shall he slay them; but it is like an overflowing stream of love, grace and mercy, which abounds and super-abounds towards his people in their everlasting salvation. Or, 2. It may be understood of Christ’s mediation: the prayers of believers are called their breathing, in Lamentations 3:36. Christ’s prayers, mediation and intercession, upon the account of his people, may bear the same name.

    Now this is most sweet, and is therefore compared to incense; it is sweet and acceptable unto God, and what sweetens and perfumes the saints sacrifices of prayer and praise; and hence it is, that the prayers of the saints are called odors; see Revelation 5:8 and 8:3,4. Though, 3. A late writer thinks, that this may as well be referred to Christ’s breathing upon his apostles, when he bid them receive the Holy Ghost; which was one of the finishing actions of his life on earth, as this is the finishing part of his description here: and indeed, Christ’s breathing the gifts and graces of his Holy Spirit upon his apostles then, mad upon his churches and ministers in all ages since, he having the fullness of it with him, renders him exceeding amiable and lovely to them.

    II. She sums up the whole character, and doses the description of him, in stying, ‘Yea, he is altogether lovely; or, he is all desire’ f198, as the Septuagint read it; or, ‘all desires,’ as it is in the Hebrew text: he is exceeding desirable to believers; there is none in heaven or in earth they desire besides him; and one of the characters which he was known by, under the Old Testament, was, ‘the desire of all nations. And now what makes him so desirable to the church and to all believers, are, The divine excellencies and perfections which appear in his person; for ‘ in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily: there is no perfection or excellency in the Deity, but what may be found in Christ; and if so, there can be nothing that is excellent in any creature, either in heaven or earth, but what is eminently so in him; and therefore he must needs be a desirable person. 2. The mediatorial qualifications he is possessed of; he has a fullness of the gifts and graces of the Spirit in him, which qualify him as man end mediator for his office; he has a fullness of fitness for it, and a fulness of abilities to carry him through it; which render him a suitable and a desirable high-priest unto us. 3. The fullness of grace, life and salvation in him, makes him altogether desirable to souls; when they can see nothing in themselves, and all in Christ, an emptiness in the creature, and a fullness in him; that it is in vain to expect salvation elsewhere; but that there is enough in him to answer all their wants, present and future; every thing that will make them comfortable here, and happy hereafter; how can he be otherwise than exceeding desirable to them? 4. His agreeable carriage and deportment towards souls render him so; which is so wise and prudent, so loving, tender and compassionate, so week and humble, so courteous and affable, and attended with such an air of familiarity; that it at once fixes our eyes upon him, attracts our affections to him, and makes him all desires unto us. 5. The names and titles which he bears: he has a name that is above every name, which awes and commands our fear, being full of majesty; and he has a name which draws our love, being full of sweetness, which is that sweet and precious name Jesus; which is as ointment poured forth, and therefore do the virgins love him; and so are all those names which are given him, in Isaiah 9:6. 6. The characters he bears, and the relations he stands in to his people, make him exceeding desirable to them; and indeed, how can he be otherwise than so unto them, when he stands in the relations, and bears the characters of a tender husband, an indulgent father, a loving brother, and a faithful friend? He is all things to them f199 , even all in all. Again, if we read the words as they are translated in our bibles, ‘he is altogether lovely,’ we may observe, 1. That Christ, and all of Christ, is lovely to believers; he is so in his person, in all his offices, in his people, and in his ordinances; nay, the worst of Christ, or what may seem the most scaring and frightful to others, is lovely to the saints; as the cross of Christ, reproaches and sufferings on his account; for tho’ they are not lovely in themselves, yet they are for his sake; and are therefore preferred by believers to the pleasures of sin, and profits of this world; see Hebrews 11:25,26. 2. That there is a perfect loveliness in Christ, every thing in him is lovely, and there is nothing lovely but what is in him; he is comprehensively so: if the church is a perfection of beauty, and is perfectly comely, ‘through the comeliness’ which Christ has put upon her; he must needs be so from whom she has it, even ‘altogether lovely.’ 3. That he is so to all: he is lovely to his Father, as he is his own Son, the dear son of his love; and as he is man and mediator, engaged in our cause, as having assumed our nature, and obtained eternal redemption for us; he is so to all the holt angels, many of whom descended at his incarnation, and sang his praise, ministered to him in his state of humiliation, attended on him when tempted in the wilderness, and when in his agonies in the garden; and gazed with wonder and delight upon his glorious person, as they accompanied him in his ascension to glory: hence this is said to be one branch of the ‘great mystery of godliness,’ that God, who was ‘manifest in the flesh, was seen of angels,’ and appeared lovely to them: and so he is to all the saints, for ‘to them that believe, he is precious;’ and indeed he is so to all but Christless sinners; who see no beauty, form nor comeliness in him, wherefore they should desire him. 4. As Christ is lovely in himself, and lovely to all others, so it is he that makes all the saints lovely to God: there is nothing in them, nor done by them, that can make them grateful to him; they are only accepted with him ‘in the beloved;’ he is pleased with Christ and his righteousness, and with them as considered therein: he must needs be lovely, yea, ‘altogether lovely,’ that makes all the saints lovely too.

    Now the church having given such an ample description of her beloved to the daughters of Jerusalem, they might from henceforward cease to wonder, why she, who was ‘the fairest among women,’ was so deeply fallen in love with Christ; why she made such a stir about him, was so much concerned at his absence, was so diligent in her search of him, and gave them so strict a charge concerning him; as well as they need not now be any longer at a loss to know who and what he was, he having given such distinguishing characters of him; and having done this, she closes all with claiming an interest in him, and appropriates him to her own soul, in the latter part of this verse; she having a clear sight of him, and her faith more strengthened in him.

    VERSE 16. Latter part. — This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

    THE church having given a large description of Christ, in the preceding verses, to the satisfaction of the inquiring daughters of Jerusalem; closes the account of him with a comfortable appropriation of him to her own soul, and a holy boasting of him before others; which she does, by considering him under those two characters:

    I. As her beloved.

    II. As her friend.

    I. She points him out to the daughters of Jerusalem, and distinguishes him from all other beloveds; and boasts of him in the views of her interest in him, under the character of her beloved: which shows, 1. That her love and affection to him were strong and ardent, such as many waters could not quench nor any thing separate from; though she was forsaken by him, and had suffered much from the watchmen and keepers of the wall for the sake of him; she had sought him with a great deal of care and diligence to little purpose; she had called aloud, and with great importunity herself, and had made use of the interest of others with him, and yet could not prevail upon him to show himself; she could neither see him, nor hear him, nor get any tidings of him; yet notwithstanding all this, he is her beloved still. 2. It bespeaks the strength of her faith in him; for notwithstanding the sense of sins and infirmities, which she now had, the desertions, temptations, sufferings, etc., which she was attended with, yet she could say, ‘This is my beloved:’ this is the trial of faith, and herein lies the glory and excellency of it, when a soul can believe in the dark, or as Abraham did, believe ‘in hope against hope;’ herein the church acted in some conformity to Christ, her head; who, when upon the cross, in the agonies of death, deserted by his friends, and forsaken by his God, yet nevertheless could say, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ 3. This shows that Christ only was her beloved; that she had singled him out from all others; and that he was in her esteem preferable to all others: there is none among all the angels in heaven nor any among all the sons of men on earth, neither is there any creature enjoyment whatever, comparable to him; and it is as if she should say, Let others take their beloveds to themselves, the idols of their own hearts, their carnal lusts and sensual pleasures whom they have chose; for my part, I ingenuously confess that this excellent person, whom I have just now described unto you, is only ‘my beloved;’ him I have chose, and I desire no other; and now I leave you to judge whether there is any comparison between him and others f200 . But having met with his character already in this song, I shall not any longer insist on it now; but proceed, II. To consider the other character which she gives of him ‘this is my friend’ f201 . There is a mutual friendship between Christ and believers; he calls them his friends, in <220501> 5:1 of this chapter, as the church calls him in this; and it is worthy of observation, that the very same characters of beloved and friend, which Christ gives to his church there, are given to him by his own church here; it being usual for therein this song to take up each other’s words, and return them. This character of a friend, undoubtedly suits well with Christ; in opening of which, I shall endeavor, First, To give some instances and proofs of Christ’s friendship to his people.

    Secondly, To show the transcendent excellency of this friend. And, Thirdly, Consider in what manner the church here delivers herself.

    First, it will be proper to give some instances of Christ’s friendship to his church and people; from whence it will manifestly appear, that he justly deserves such a character. And, 1. His engaging as a surety for them, is a manifest indication of it; when our cause was desperate he engaged in it; when justice was ready to give the blow our transgressions deserved, he interposed and averted it, and took it upon himself; when he knew that we should run through all our stock, and become bankrupts, he became our bondsman, and engaged to pay the whole debt; when he saw that we should fall into the depths of sin and misery, he undertook to bring us out of them, cleanse us from all sin, clothe us with his righteousness, and safely conduct us to glory; and must not all this be esteemed a proof of Christ’s friendship to us? 2. His dying for us is another: this is the greatest act of friendship among men, for one mart to die for another; ‘Greater love hath no man than this,’ says Christ, John 15:13, ‘that a man lay down his life for his friends;’ but Christ has given a greater instance of friendship than this, in that he has laid down his life for his enemies; for ‘when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son;’ O matchless love! unparalleled friendship! 3. He has paid all our debts: our sins are called so in scripture, and a large score of them we have run; we owe ‘ten thousand talents’ and have not one farthing to pay; and to prison we must have gone, ‘where we should have lain until we had paid the uttermost farthing,’ had not Christ engaged to do it; which he has actually done, by making satisfaction to law and justice; on the account of which, God the Father has cancelled the bond, crossed the debt-book, and discharged both sinner and surety; it was an act of friendship now to be bound for us, but still a greater to pay the whole debt. 4. He has purchased our persons, and procured all things needful for us; we are ‘not our own,’ but ‘are bought with a price;’ which price is not ‘corruptible things, as silver and gold,’ but the ‘precious blood’ of Christ Jesus, which he has shed for the ransom of us: for a king to give a large sum of money for the ransom of any of his subjects out of Algiers, or any other place of slavery, is an instance of his beneficence, humanity, and friendship to them; but was he to give himself a ransom for them, it would be an unheard-of one, but Christ has done this for his people, and thereby redeemed them from the slavery of the law, sin, Satan, and the world and not only this, but has washed them from their sins ‘in his own blood,’ stripped them of their ‘filthy garments,’ and clothed them with ‘change of raiment;’ nay, has procured an inheritance for them, of which he now gives them the pledge and earnest, and ere long will put them into the full possession of it: and now, to do all this for persons who are entirely undeserving of it, is an instance of friendship indeed! 5. Not only so, but he is also gone to glory, to take possession of it in our name, room and stead; that so we may not be under any fear of losing it, nor of being by any means deprived of it; and in so doing, acts the part of a loving brother, a trusty co-heir, and faithful friend; as well as he is gone thither also to prepare a place for us, that it may be ready for us, when we, by his Spirit and grace, are made ready for that. 6. His acting the part of an intercessor and advocate for us with the Father, is another instance of his friendship; ‘he appears in the presence of God for us,’ presents our services and petitions to him; pleads for every blessing we stand in need of, for converting, pardoning, adopting, sanctifying, and glorifying grace, and answers all Satan’s charges and accusations; and in so doing, shows himself friendly to us. 7. He supplies all our wants: he has all grace treasured up in his person for this purpose, and he does not withhold it from his people; but, at proper times, cheerfully and freely distributes it, according as their wants and necessities require; and this he does, not merely for their importunities sake, but because they are his friends; when disconsolate, he comforts them; when tempted, he succors them; when distressed, he relieves them; when hungry, he feeds them; when sick and wounded, he heals them, and discharges all the good offices of a friend unto them. 8. He shows his friendship to us, and maintains it by the kind and comfortable visits which he makes to us; for though he may absent himself for some time, yet he will not leave us comfortless, but will come and see us, and visit us with his salvation; which is such an astonishing piece of friendship, that we have reason to say as the Psalmist, Psalm 8:4. ‘What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?’ 9. Whenever he pays those visits, it is with such an air of freedom and familiarity, as renders them exceeding delightful, and justly intitles him to this character; it was his free, courteous, and affable deportment to men in the days of, by his flesh, which occasioned the Pharisee’s way of reproach, to call him ‘a friend of publicans and sinners:’ and so free and familiar are his converses with his people in a spiritual war; he talks with them, as one friend may with another; he walks with them, nay, he sits down at table with them, sups with them, and they with him. 10. He shows himself to be a friend unto them, and that he looks upon them to be his friends, by disclosing the secrets of his grace unto them; hence says he to his disciples, John 15:15. ‘I call you nor servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you:’ he lay in his Father’s bosom, and so was privy to all his secret thoughts, counsels, purposes and decrees, and makes a discovery of them to us, so far as is needful to advance our good and his glory; for ‘the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant,’ Psalm 25:14.

    And lastly, his friendship appears in the good and wholesome counsel which he gives unto us; which being taken, is always useful, and infallibly succeeds, being given with the utmost wisdom and the greatest faithfulness; of which see an instance in Revelation 3:18. Nay, his reproofs for sin, as well as his advice in distress, are exceeding friendly, and ought to be taken so; for, as the wise man says, Proverbs 27:5,6. ‘Open rebuke is better than secret love; faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.’ Thus much may suffice for some instances and proofs of Christ’s friendship to his church and people. I come now, Secondly, To show the transcendent excellency of this friend; ‘this is my friend:’ he is a nonsuch; there is none like him, nor to be compared with him; for, 1. He is a ‘friend that sticketh closer than a brother:’ which may be expressive of that near union there is between Christ and believers; they are as if but one soul actuated them; and indeed but one spirit does, which is in Christ without measure, and in believers in measure; for ‘he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit:’ Christ stands in a nearer relation than that of a brother to his church; he is her head and husband, her bosom-friend; she is ‘flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone;’ though all these relations fall short of fully expressing the nearness, strictness, and indissolubleness of this union. Or else, this character may intend that sympathy and affection which Christ bears to his people, in all their afflictions, sorrows, sufferings, temptations, desertions, sins and infirmities; as well as signify his close adherence to our cause; who having once undertook it, never left it till he had completed what he had engaged to do; all which shows the transcendent excellency of this friend, 2. He is a constant friend, one that ‘loves at all times;’ he was a friend to us, when we were enemies to him; and merely by his love and acts of friendship to us, he overcame us, slew the enmity of our natures, and of enemies made us friends; and continues to be a friend to us in all the adversities and afflictions of life: when men are in prosperity, they have usually many friends; but when the day of adversity comes upon them, they soon forsake them: but Christ does not treat his people so; he is a friend to them in adversity, as well as in prosperity; he knows their souls then, when no body else will; he owns them for his own, and treats them as his friends, and so he will continue to do, even until death; and at that time wilt not fail to show himself friendly to them, no more than he will at the day of judgment, when he will publicly own them, before angels and men, to be his friends; set ‘the crown of righteousness’ upon their heads, and give them an admittance into his Father’s kingdom and glory. 3. He is a faithful friend; we may safely tell him all the secrets of our hearts, he will not betray us; we may trust him with our all, he will never fail us; and though the prophet says, Micah 7:5. ‘Trust not in a friend, and put not confidence in a guide;’ yet we may safely trust in this our friend, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will be our almighty God, and our trusty and faithful friend and ‘guide, even unto death.’ 4. He is a rich friend; such an one is often useful and needful: a man may have a friend that has a heart to help him, but not in a capacity; but Christ, as he is heartily willing to help us, so he has an ability to do it; he is possessed of ‘unsearchable riches,’ and these he distributes among his friends; for it is from those ‘riches in glory,’ which are in Christ’s hands, that all the wants of his people are supplied. 5. He is an everlasting friend: a man may have a friend, but this friend may die, and then all his dependence on him is gone; but Christ ever lives, and ever lives to be a friend unto his people; death parts the best friends, and puts them into an incapacity of serving each other; but there is no fear or danger of this in Christ, over whom death shall no more have the dominion. 6. He is an unchangeable friend; he is always the same, ‘yesterday, to-day, and for ever:’ sometimes little things ‘separate chief friends,’ but nothing can separate Christ and believers; his mind never changes, his affections never cool, nor are the communications of friendship ever cut off; his ears are not open to every idle story, nor is he tempted to break off friendship with his people, by their unkindnesses and ingratitude unto him. But, Thirdly, A little to consider the manner in which the church delivers herself in these words; which appears to be, 1. In the strength of faith: she could comfortably appropriate Christ to herself, under each of the characters here mentioned; and though she had not the sensible manifestations of Christ’s love to her, which she was desirous of, and had not those visible instances of his friendship she had formerly experienced, yet she did not doubt but that he was both her beloved and her friend. 2. She seems to speak in an exulting and rejoicing manner; her soul was filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory, as an effect of her faith in an unseen Jesus; and indeed she had all the reason in the world to rejoice in the views of her interest in such a beloved, and in such a friend, whom she had before described. 3. She seems also to speak in a kind of boasting manner, ‘This is my beloved, and this is my friend:’ and indeed believers may do so, for though they may not glory in themselves, nor in any thing done by them, yet they may in Christ, and in what he has done for them: and so the Psalmist David did, Psalm 34:2, who says, ‘My soul shall make her boast of the Lord:’ and thus the church did here before the daughters of Jerusalem, and what effect this whole discourse of hers had upon them, may be seen in the following words. CHAPTER - The discourse between the church and the daughters of Jerusalem is continued in this chapter: they inquire whither her beloved was gone, in order to seek him with her, verse 1 she tells them where he was gone, and for what purpose he went thither, and what he. was doing there; and claims and asserts her interest in him, verses 2,3.

    Then follows a commendation of the church by Christ; who admires her beauty, and describes her by her eyes, hair, etc., verses 4-7, and prefers her to all others, being a singular and choice one to him, and being praised by others, verses 8-10, and next he gives an account of his going into his garden, and of his design in it, and of what happened to him there, verses 11,12. And the chapter is concluded with a charge to the Shulamite to turn herself, that she might be looked upon; which occasions a question, to which an answer is returned, verse 13.

    VERSE 1. Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among, women?

    Whither it thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.

    THE church having answered the former question of the daughters of Jerusalem to their satisfaction, by giving them an ample account of her beloved, what he was; they proceed to another question, and ask, whither he was gone, which we have in this verse. In which may be considered, I. The title or appellation they give her, or their manner of addressing her, ‘O thou fairest among women.’

    II. A question proposed by them to her, which is also repeated; ‘Whither is thy beloved gone? whither is thy beloved turned aside?’

    III. The end of their asking this question; ‘that we may seek him with thee?’

    I. The title or appellation which they give her, is, the ‘fairest among women:’ which is, no doubt, designed to express the exceeding greatness of her beauty; women being the fairest of human race, and she the fairest of all that sex; she was in their eye the ‘perfection of beauty,’ and therefore they give her this character; and they were not mistaken in it, for Christ gives her the very same encomium, and that in the same words, in chapter 1:8. But now we must not understand this of her, as considered in herself; neither did the daughters of Jerusalem so understand it, who had been better informed from her own mouth; for she had told them, that she was black in herself, though comely in Christ: nor is it to be understood of her outward appearance in the world: for under that consideration she appears also black with reproaches, scandals, persecutions and afflictions: but this character suits her as she is considered in Christ, her head; as justified by his righteousness, washed in his blood, and .sanctified by his Spirit. It may also be observed, that these persons continued in their esteem of her; for the same character they give her here, they gave her when they proposed the first question to her, in chapter 5:9, nay, perhaps their esteem of her, and value for her, might rise higher than heretofore, they having a clearer knowledge of Christ than they had before; for as our knowledge of Christ and love to him increase, so do our love unto, and our esteem for his people: and it is very probable, that the beauty and loveliness which they saw in her, drew their pity and compassion towards her; so as to take notice of her case, condole her misfortunes in the loss of so excellent a person, and offer their service to assist her in the search of him.

    Likewise, no doubt but the veneration and esteem which they had for her person, made them more carefully attend to what she said concerning her beloved: for thus it is with persons under the preaching of the gospel; if they come prejudiced against the person who ministers, they take but little notice of what is said, unless it be to calumniate and reproach, and so reap but little advantage from it; when, on the other hand, if persons come, not only unprejudiced against, but having a veneration and respect for the minister of the gospel, they generally give the greater heed unto, and are most likely to profit by his ministrations.

    Moreover, the daughters might make use of this title or appellation in their addresses, to assure her that they were serious and in good earnest in asking this question, as well as in the former; and that it was not to indulge a vain curiosity in themselves, nor designed for her disadvantage, but rather the contrary.

    II. Here is a question put by them; ‘Whither is thy beloved gone’? f202 Which way did he take? what course did he steer? on which hand did he turn, when he withdrew from thy door? which question is repeated, though another word is used, yet to the same purpose, ‘Whither is thy beloved turned aside?’ Which way did he look? which way did he turn his face, when he turned it from thee? Now, 1. The putting of this question, and not insisting any longer upon the former, or upon the explication of any branch of her answer to it, supposes that they were entirely satisfied with it; therefore the question is not now, who or what her beloved was, for they knew that full well from the description she had given of him but now the question is, ‘Whither is he gone?’ This may teach us, that when younger Christians have any doubts, scruples, cases of conscience, or questions relating to faith or experience; to the person, office, and grace of Christ, or to any part of the great mystery of godliness, to be resolved, they should make their application to elder ones: this method these young converts, or daughters of Jerusalem, took here; which God was pleased to bless and succeed, for their increase in light and knowledge, and for the stirring up of their affections and desires after the Lord Jesus: and may serve to encourage the private conferences and conversations of the saints with each other: which, when carried on in an agreeable manner, when filled with spiritual discourses, and taken up with asking and answering proper questions relating to faith or experience, are highly well pleasing to God, and tend much to the edifying of one another: this may also serve as a direction to ministers to insist chiefly upon the glories and excellencies of Christ; for this is the way of preaching which God owns and blesses, for the conversion of sinners, and consolation of saints; the church’s insisting on this subject, was made o£ great use to these persons, to draw out their love to Christ, and to make farther inquiries after him. 2. It may be observed from this question, that when Christ is known, who he is, and what he is; the next question is, where he is, and how he may be come at? whilst persons are insensible of their wretched state by nature, they see no need of Christ; and whilst they are ignorant of him, they have no value for him, nor desire after him; ignoti nulla cupido; there is no desire after an unknown thing; an unknown Christ is an undesired Christ: the reason why souls, in a state of nature, seek not after God is, because they have no understanding of him: ‘there is none that understandeth,’ says the apostle, Romans 3:11, ‘there is none that seeketh after God:’ the same reason holds here, with respect to Christ; for, whilst souls remain strangers to the beauties and glories of Christ’s person, they will have no value for him, nor make any inquiry after him; but as for those that know the Lord, they will ‘follow on to know him,’ and make use of all means appointed for that purpose; for the more a soul knows of Christ, the more it desires to know; mere speculative notions of his person, without knowledge of interest in him, and communion with him, will not satisfy them an account of him by hearsay, though exceeding ravishing and delightful to them, is not enough without seeing him; for where Christ’s worth is once known, there is no contentment without the enjoyment of him; when he is once discovered as ‘the pearl of price,’ the soul is willing to run all risks, endure all hardships, part with every thing that is near and dear, so it may but be possessed of him: its language is, Give me Christ, or I die; ten thousand worlds, if I had them, for an interest in this glorious person: this seems to be the case of the daughters of Jerusalem here. 3. The repetition of this question, shows that they were serious and in good earnest, and did not speak sarcastically: and that they were impatient until they received an answer; ‘Whither is thy beloved gone? whither is thy beloved turned aside?’ prithee give us an answer speedily, keep us not in suspense; thou hast given us such a character of his person, that we long to see him, and are uneasy until thou givest us some notice of the place whither he is retired, that we may, along with thee, be searching after him. 4. There may be some knowledge of Christ, love to him, and desires after him, when there is but little faith in him that is discernible; all the graces of the Spirit are implanted at one and the same time, but they do not all appear at once in their actings upon Christ; love and affection to Christ, and desires after him, appear before faith does: so they did in these persons: they had got some farther knowledge of Christ from the church’s description of him; were filled with greater love and affection to him, and had more ardent desires after him, and yet had but little faith in him; for they could not say, that he was their beloved; and therefore, as one well observes, they do not say, where is our beloved gone, but where is thy beloved gone? 5. It appears that they were willing to take the least hints, nay even conjectures, that if it was possible, they might improve them towards finding him, ‘Whither is thy beloved gone?’ Canst thou not give us some hints of it I canst thou not guess which way he took? which shows how intent they were of using all means, so that they might but find him; let it be which way it would, they. were resolved to pursue it; could they but have the least notice of it, whether it was to the right-hand or left, backwards or forwards. 6. Their putting this question to her, shows that she was, or at least that they thought she was, capable of giving them some directions, though she was at the same time destitute of his presence; and it seems she was, by the answer she gives them in the following verse. The church knew where Christ usually retired, and granted his gracious presence to his people; and though he was not willing, at present, to show himself to her, yet she did not know but he might to them, and therefore directs them; nay, sometimes believers are capable of advising and directing others, when they cannot take advice themselves.

    III. The end they propose in asking this question, is, that they might seek him with her: which may be considered as a motive to prevail upon her to comply with their request; for this shows that they were serious and in good earnest; that their end was not mere speculation, but practice, which indeed ought to be the end of all our inquiries; that it was their purpose and resolution to seek him; they had agreed and resolved among themselves to do it; for so the words may be read, ‘and we will seek him with thee;’ f206 and if thou wilt tell us which way he went, it will lay us under an obligation to make good our resolution: nay, it shows also that it was her good they had in view, as much as their own; and self-interest goes a great way; so that, put all together, it is no wonder that she readily, and without any hesitation, answers the question. Now this being the frame of soul that these daughters of Jerusalem were brought into through her discourse concerning Christ; and seeking Christ being the thing which they had in view, and were desirous of being directed in; may lead us to observe the following things: 1. That the end of setting forth the excellencies of Christ, whether in private conversation, or in the public ministry, is to set souls a seeking after him; for this purpose the ministers of the gospel insist upon the glories of Christ’s person, the excellency of his righteousness, the efficacy of his blood, and the fullness of his grace; it was with this view that the church took so much pains, and spent so much time, in discoursing concerning this excellent person, her beloved, which had its answerable success. 2. It is very discouraging to seek Christ, and not know where he is; it is true, the church knew where Christ used to retire, when he withdrew himself, and therefore knew where to seek him, in hopes of finding him; but the daughters of Jerusalem were unacquainted therewith; and therefore it was very proper for them to put such a question, previous to their seeking, him. 3. This should be the principal thing we should have in view in all religious duties, seeking and seeing Jesus; this is that one thing that should be uppermost in our hearts and desires, when concerned in the duties of hearing, reading, praying, meditating and conferring, that we may ‘behold the king in his beauty.’ 4. Our seeking Christ should be jointly and together; we should seek him, not separately, but with the church: though this does not exclude our seeking him alone, in our closets and in our families; yet there is a social part of worship that we should be concerned in jointly; in which we are to worship the Lord with one shoulder and one consent, and ‘not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some too often is. 5. We should seek Christ in his ordinances, and where his church seeks him: we cannot expect the presence of Christ, when we run away from his church and ordinances, or when we seek him elsewhere; we should seek him with the church, and where the church seeks. 6. Their saying that they would seek him with her, was no doubt to encourage her in hopes of finding; they do as good as desire her not to be cast down at his departure; for they hoped he was not gone far, and that he would be found again, and at the same time promise her all the assistance they were capable of giving; though there is also reason to believe, that they were in hopes of sharing with her in so valuable a blessing; and indeed it was but reasonable, that if they bore part with her in the fatigue of the search, they should also participate with her in the enjoyment of the blessing; which no doubt she was willing to, and therefore immediately gives the following answer.

    VERSE 2. My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, toiled in the gardens, and to gather lilies.

    THESE words contain the church’s answer to the second question of the daughters of Jerusalem; they had asked her what her beloved was more than others; she told them: they then proceed to ask, whither he was gone; to which she here replies. In which may be considered, I. The place whither she says he was gone; ‘my beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices.’

    II. The end of his going down, or what his business and employment was when there; which was twofold: 1st , ‘To feed in the gardens.’ 2dly, ‘To gather lilies.’

    I. The place whither she says he was gone, ‘into his garden;’ and more particularly, ‘to the beds of spices.’ And, 1st , It may be inquired what was meant by his garden, into which he was gone down. Same understand it of the heavenly paradise, whither Christ was gone to share the everlasting joys thereof, and converse with angels and saints; who may be said to be the ‘trees of righteousness,’ those spicy plants and precious flowers which are planted there; and in the midst of which stands ‘the tree of life,’ Christ Jesus, the glory of the whole garden; and into this, Christ’s lilies, when fully ripe, are transplanted by him. This sense is favored by R. Aben Ezra’s gloss upon the text, who says, ‘This is he who ascended on high,’ to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies, ‘because he dwelleth with the angels, who are the righteous ones.’ But if the words design Christ’s ascension into heaven, they should rather have expressed thus; ‘my beloved is gone up into his garden,’ than as they are, ‘my beloved is gone down into his garden:’ therefore I rather think, that the church of Christ here on earth is meant; which is as a garden separated by Christ from this world, whose enclosure is sovereign and distinguishing grace; in which are various trees, plants and spices, set and planted there by Christ himself, and where he takes his walks with pleasure; but in what sense the church may be compared to a garden, see more on chapter 4:12. 2dly, It may be observed, that this garden is said to be his; and so it may very well; for of all others he has chosen this to be his garden; he asked it of his Father for this purpose, and he gave it him; he has also purchased it by his own blood, and distinguished it by his grace; he takes the care of it, waters it, and watches over it; it is he that hath brought it to its present perfection, and will bring it to a far greater; so that Christ retires and takes his walks here, not as one either upon trespass or sufferance, and by the leave of others; but as having an undoubted right and title to it, and as being sovereign lord and owner of it; but of this, see more on chapter 4:16. 3dly, Christ is said to be gone down into his garden: which perhaps may be an allusion to Solomon’s gardens, which lay lower than his palace: and it is probable that those stairs, which went down from the city of David, the palace royal of the kings of Judah, were made to go down into the king’s gardens, of both which you read in Nehemiah 2:15, and so ‘the garden of nuts,’ in verse 11. seems to be in the valley: or the allusion may be to what Solomon himself was wont to do, as Josephus relates; who used to go very early in a morning, in great pomp, to Etham, about two miles from Jerusalem, a pleasant place, abounding with gardens and flows of water, which might lie lower than Jerusalem. And in the spiritual or mystical sense, may point out, 1. The low estate of Christ’s church here on earth: the saints are compared to myrtle-trees; and these are said, Zechariah 1:8. to be ‘in the bottom,’ that is, in a low estate, being depressed with many sorrows, afflictions, and persecutions; they are doves, but ‘doves of the rallies,’ mourning under a sense of their iniquities, being burdened with the weight of sin; and they are not only in a low estate, but also low and humble in their own eyes: and with such Christ delights to dwell; he often goes down into his garden to those humble souls, pays them a visit, grants them his presence, and bestows larger measures of his grace upon them. 2. It is also expressive of Christ’s condescension in doing this: It was a wonderful stoop, and an amazing instance of his condescension, to come down from heaven, clothe himself with our nature, and converse with sinful mortals here on earth; for a king to come from his royal palace, and enter into the cottage of a beggar, and to eat, drink, and lodge there for a time, would not express so much humility and condescension as this does; and next to this is his granting his presence to his churches, and to particular believers here on earth; so that we have reason to say, when we consider the greatness of his majesty, and our vileness, sinfulness and unworthiness, with Judas, not Iscariot. ‘How is it, Lord, that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?’ John 14:22. And if, 4thly, It should be asked, How she could tell the daughters of Jerusalem where her beloved was, when she was at a loss for him, and in the search of him herself? it may be answered, 1. That though she had sought hires and found him not; though he was not pleased to manifest himself to her at that present time; yet having had large experiences of these things, she knew where Christ usually was, and would be found of his people; therefore she directs them where formerly she had, though now she could not find him, in hopes that they might. Or, 2. It may be supposed that the case was altered with her, that she was no longer at a loss for him; but having sought him, had found him, or at least had got some intelligence of him; which she no sooner had, but she informs them of it. Or, 3. Their inquiring whither he was gone, might bring to her remembrance what she had formerly heard him say, in chapter 5:1. ‘I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse,’ etc. but falling asleep immediately, entirely forgot it, until her memory was refreshed by the inquiries of these persons.

    Thus you see that weaker Christians may be useful to stronger ones; and even the very questions they put for information-sake, may prove the quickening of believers, and be the means of increasing light and knowledge, or at least; of reviving past experiences. But, 5thly, It may be observed, that she not only says that he was gone down to his garden, but that he was gone down ‘to the beds of spices :’ by which I understand particular believers, who are so many beds in Christ’s garden; in which ate planted those precious spices, the graces of the Spirit, which, for rareness, excellency and fragrancy, are called so: and these more especially intend growing, thriving and flourishing souls; lively believers, whose ‘spices flow out,’ whose grace is in exercise; such Christ has a particular regard unto, and delights to be with.

    II. She declares the end of his going down into his garden, or what it is he employs himself about when there. And, 1st, She says, it was ‘to feed in the gardens.’ By gardens, I understand particular congregated churches f209 ; for though there is but one ‘general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven;’ which is redeemed by Christ’s blood, and will be presented ‘a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing,’ and therefore before called a garden, in the singular number; yet there are many distinct and particular churches; such as those of Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Colosse, Philippi, Thessalonica, and the seven churches of Asia, were; which were as so many distinct gardens, or plots of earth, that the one garden was subdivided into. And by feeding, here, is meant, either, 1. His feeding himself; which as to be understood of that pleasure and delight which Christ takes in being among his saints, and seeing their graces exercised upon their proper object; for as believers feed themselves by exercising their grace on Christ, so he feeds or delights himself in observing this; this is his meat and drink; this is his supping with them, as the other is their supping with him; and this Christ is invited to, in chapter 4:16, to which he complies, in chap. <220501> 5:1. Or else, 2. It may be understood of his feeding his flock, as R. Sol. Jarchi observes; for ‘he feeds his flock like a shepherd,’ though in such places as other shepherds do not; he feeds them in the gardens, which are unusual to feed sheep in; commons or enclosed grounds, and not gardens, being the most usual places for that purpose: and she makes mention of gardens, in the plural number, to show that Christ is not tied to one particular church, but feeds in all his churches, in all his gardens; where he feeds his people with himself, who is ‘the bread of life, the hidden manna;’ whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed: O precious food! delicious fare! he feeds them by and with his ordinances, which are those ‘breasts of consolation’ which convey much strength and nourishment to them; those green pastures into which he leads them, and ‘the fatness of his house’ with which he feeds them; and particularly the Lord’s Supper is that ‘feast of fat things,’ by which he sweetly refreshes them; he feeds them also by his ministers, who are his under-shepherds, to whom he has given a commission and also ability, to feed his people ‘with knowledge and with understanding:’ and so he does likewise by his Spirit; who takes the things of Christ, and sheds it in us; and the promises of Christ, and applies them to us; for which reason he is called ‘the spirit of promise.’ And now this may serve to direct poor hungry souls where to go for food, and where to expect it, even in Christ’s gardens, in his churches and in his ordinances, where he himself feeds. 2dly, Another end of his going down into his garden, is ‘to gather lilies or roses, as the Targum renders it; to crop them with the hand f211 ; lilies are liable to be cropped; hence Horace calls the lily, breve lilium, the shortlived lily: by which may be meant, either the good works of the saints, which he is well pleased with, and takes notice of; insomuch that he writes them down in ‘the book of his remembrance,’ as R. Solomon Jarchi observes; for he ‘is not unrighteous to forget their work, and labor of love,’ but will reward them in a way of grace: or else, by them is meant, the sweet-smelling graces of his own Spirit, growing in his churches, as Ainsworth thinks, with which he is wonderfully delighted: or rather, the persons of the elect, and members of his church, who may be compared to lilies, for the glory, splendor, and beauty in his righteousness; of which see chapter 2:2.

    Now there was, 1. A gathering of these lilies at Christ’s death: as all the Sins of the elect were collected together and were laid on Christ, when he hung upon the cross; so all their persons were collected and gathered together in one head, Christ Jesus; they all met in his person, and were represented by him; for this purpose Christ came down from heaven, took our nature, and suffered in it; see John 11:51,52; Ephesians 1:10. 2. There is a gathering of these lilies in effectual calling, through the ministry of the word, by the mighty power of divine grace; and this work Christ is daily concerned in, in his church, and will be until all his elect are gathered in. 3. There is a gathering of them into church-communion, which is also Christ’s work; who takes ‘one of a city, and two of a family,’ and brings them to Zion; and in doing this, he shows his regard to the good of souls, and at the same time ‘glorifies the house of his glory;’ see Isaiah 60:7,8. 4. There is a gathering into nearer communion with himself, which he often does after great desertions; see Isaiah 54:7. 5. This may be expressive of that great delight and pleasure which Christ takes in his people: no man can take more delight in plucking fruit, or gathering flowers in a garden, than Christ does in his own people, and in his own grace in them; see Song of Solomon 5:1. 6. This may be meant of their being gathered by death; so Abrahram and Isaac, when they died, are said to be ‘gathered unto their fathers,’ Genesis 15:8 and 35:29. Christ comes into his garden, the church, sometimes to plant new lilies, and sometimes to crop and gather old ones, when they are fully ripe; not to destroy them, but to remove them into his paradise above; and at the last day, by the means of angels, he will gather in all his elect ones from the four winds, as wheat into his barn, and as lilies into his garden; see Matthew 3:7 and 13:48 and 24:31. This sense of the word is given by several Jewish writers. And now, lest any should think that this was a mere surmise, conjecture, and imagination of hers; or if any should call in question her knowledge in this matter, she declares in the following verse, that she was not only well acquainted with him, but was nearly related to him; and therefore was capable of informing any person where he was, and what he was about.

    VERSE 3. I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.

    THAT these words are expressive of that mutual interest and property which Christ and his church have in each other, of that strict and inseparable union that there is between them, and also of that mutual affection and complacency which they have to and in each other, as well as of her knowledge and assurance of her interest in Christ, has been shown on chapter 2:16, but it may be farther observed, that the order of the words is here inverted; that whereas in chapter 2:16, the order of the words is this, ‘My beloved is mine, and I am his;’ from whence has been observed, that Christ is first ours, and then we are his, which is an undoubted truth; for Christ first gives himself to us, before we are capable of giving ourselves to him; but that which was first there is here last, and what was last is first; for she first says, ‘I am my beloved’s; and then, ‘my beloved is mine:’ from whence it may be observed, that though Christ is first ours in fact, yet our being his, may come first to our knowledge, may be first in discovery; that is to say, that we may know that he has called us by his grace, and enabled us thereby to give up ourselves to him: so that we can say, Lord, we are thine, thou hast conquered our souls by thy grace, and hast taken possession of us, which thou wouldest never have done, had we not been thine; and from this work of grace upon our souls, we conclude that thou art ours. Thus the cause may be known by the effect; and our interest in Christ, by the displays of Christ’s grace to us, and in us; likewise, if we consider the words as connected with her former carriage and behavior to Christ, and what she had met with from him, they will lead us to observe; that all the infirmities, sins, and miscarriages of God’s people, do not destroy their union with, and interest in Christ Jesus: she had treated him very rudely, when he, in the most moving manner, and with the most tender language, entreated her to arise and let him in; she put him off with idle excuses, which he so much resented, as to absent himself from her, and left her to seek him in vain,, and to be abused by the watchmen and keepers of the walls; and though he thus visited her transgressions with this rod of correction, his own absence, for that is so to God’s children; and with those stripes and blows which she received from the watchmen; yet he did not take away his loving-kindness from her, nor break his covenant with her; and she was satisfied of this, and therefore could say, notwithstanding all this, ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine;’ and if, with R. Aben Ezra, we connect the words with the preceding verse, there will appear a beauty and glory in them, ‘My beloved is gone down into his garden,’ etc. It is true, he is so; but though he is gone, and I am left alone, he is departed from me, and when he will return, I cannot tell; perhaps I may never see his face more here on earth, in a way of sensible communion and fellowship with him, as I have heretofore done, though I hope I shall; yet if I never do, I am satisfied as to my covenantinterest in him, and union to him; I know that I am my beloved’s, and that my beloved is mine; here lies the glory and excellency of faith, thus to believe in an unseen Christ: though it may be, as the Targum intimates, that she had now the presence of Christ, the glorious Shekinah, with her; he had once more shewn himself to her, and, upon the sight of him, she says, as Thomas did, my Lord, and my God: but however, whether she had or had not the visible tokens of Christ’s presence, her faith was certainly in exercise upon him; nay, she had not only faith, but the joy of faith; she not only knew her interest in Christ, as her salvation, but also had the joys of this salvation restored to her. And again it may be observed, that tho’ she excludes all other beloveds from having any share in her affections, or from being in competition with him; yet by saying what she does, she does not exclude others, particularly the daughters of Jerusalem, from having an interest in him, as well as she, as R. Sol. Jarchi thinks; who paraphrases the words thus, ‘I am my beloved’s, and ye are not his, and therefore shall not build with us,’ and then explains it by Ezra 4:3, but though the church knew that a whole Christ was hers, yet she knew that he was others also; and would therefore never say so to the daughters of Jerusalem, to discourage them in seeking of him.

    Moreover she adds, as in chapter 2, ‘he feedeth among the lilies:’ which may be considered, either as an apostrophe to him, ‘O thou that feedest among the lilies;’ or as descriptive both of him and of the place where he was; that others might, readily know where her beloved was, and where he was to be found: but of this we have spoken, on chapter 2:16, and shall not here repeat it; only observe, that Christ having been a long time absent from his church, and would not make himself known, nor speak one word a great while, at last breaks silence, and, like another Joseph, cannot refrain himself any longer from her; but must make himself known to her, and bursts out with words of love and joy, in the following commendations of her.

    VERSE 4. Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah ; comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.

    THESE are the words of Christ; who, having absented himself from his church for a considerable time, to show his resentment of her former carriage to him, now manifests himself unto her, and declares that he has the same love and affection for her as ever he had, and therefore addresses her with this title or character, ‘O my love!’ nay, that she was as beautiful and comely in his eye as ever she was, notwithstanding all her failings and infirmities; which beauty of hers he describes first more generally in this verse, and then more particularly in the following ones. In this general description of her beauty are three parts: ‘that she is as beautiful as Tirzah.’

    I. He says, II. ‘Comely as Jerusalem.’

    III. ‘Terrible as an army with banners.’

    I. He declares her to be as ‘beautiful as Tirzah.’ The Septuagint do not take it to be the proper name of a place, as we, with R. Aben Ezra, do, and therefore translate the word, and render it thus, wJv eudokia , as good-will or good-pleasure; which may be expressive of the sweetness of her temper and disposition, which is heightened by using the abstract; she was all over good-will and good-nature, not only sweet, but sweetness itself, as she says of him, in chapter 5:16. Moreover, this may be spoken of her, as she is the object of God’s good-will and pleasure; and so she appears to be, as chosen in Christ by him, to be a partaker of grace and glory with him; which was not done upon the foot of works, but by an act of his sovereign good-will and pleasure, who ‘will have mercy on whom he will have mercy:’ also, as she is redeemed by Christ: in which there was such a discovery of ‘the exceeding riches of God’s grace,’ such an appearance of his ‘goodwill to men,’ that the angels could not but take notice of it, when they celebrated with a song the birth of an incarnate Savior, Luke 2:14. likewise, as called and sanctified by the blessed Spirit of grace, who ‘worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.’ And now if we thus consider the church as the object of God’s good-will and pleasure, in those several instances of it, she will appear beautiful and lovely. Or else, this may be said of her, as she is filled with good-will to God, to Christ, his people, gospel, worship, ways and ordinances: the church and all true believers in Christ bear a good-will to God; they ‘love him, because he first loved them;’ they love him, not only for what he is unto them, and what he has done for them, but also for what he is in himself: for he is in his own nature, in his own perfections, amiable and lovely: they bear a good-will to Christ, he is altogether lovely to them; they have none in heaven but him, nor as there any on earth they desire besides him; every thing that belongs to him is exceeding precious to them: ‘his name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love him;’ they bear a good-will to his people, who have his image enstamped upon them, and to his gospel, which they prefer to their necessary food; and to his worship, ways and ordinances; they love the habitation of his house; his tabernacles are amiable; his ways are ways of pleasantness; his commands are not grievous, but exceeding delightful to them. Now if we consider the church :as being of this sweet and loving disposition, which is wrought, influenced and maintained by divine grace, how beautiful does she appear!

    Again, the word Tirzah comes from a root, which signifies to be grateful, or to be accepted; and so R. Solomon Jarchi paraphrases the words, “Thou art beautiful, O my love, seeing that thou art acceptable to me;” and so he says it is explained in an ancient book of theirs, called Siphre f214 : and if we take the words in this sense, they set forth the beauty and glory of the church, as she stands before God, ‘ accepted in Christ the beloved.’ God is well pleased with Christ, and with the church in him; he is well pleased for his righteousness sake, and with her as she appears in that; for so considered, she is a complete beauty, fair and without spot, lovely to look upon, delightful to Christ, and acceptable to God.

    The Targum paraphrases the words thus, ‘How beautiful art thou, O my love, in the time it is thy will to do my pleasure. Our righteousnesses are indeed as filthy rags, and we ourselves as an unclean thing;’ yet when we are made ‘willing in the day of God’s power,’ to act according to his will, and that in faith, from a principle of love, and with an eye to his glory; it is accepted by him, the same way as our persons are.

    But I see no reason why we should not take the word as the proper name of a place; seeing it is certain that there was such a city as Tirzah, in the land of Judea, which was a very pleasant and delightful place, as its name manifestly shows; for which reason, no doubt, it was made choice of by one of the ancient kings of Canaan, to be the place of his residence; see Joshua 12:24, as it was afterwards by Jeroboam and his successors, until Zimri’s time: who, when the city was taken, burnt the king’s house with fire. Now either for its pleasant buildings, or beautiful situation, or some such tiring, the church is here compared unto it, being arrayed with Christ’s righteousness, and adorned with the graces of his Spirit. But, II. Lest this should not be sufficient to commend her beauty, he says also, that she is as ‘comely as Jerusalem;’ which was not only the chief city in Judea’s land, but as Pliny says, was the most famous of all the cities in the east; nay more, it was ‘the joy of the whole earth:’ the church goes under this name, both in the Old and New Testament; for which, see the following texts, Isaiah 40:2 and <235201> 52:1; Galatians 4:25,26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:2. Now she may be said to be ‘comely as Jerusalem,’ for the following reasons: 1. Jerusalem was a well-built city, its houses were closely joined together, and its streets uniform; hence the Psalmist says, <19C203> Psalm 122:3, ‘Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:’ so the church of Christ, and the members of it, as they are built upon the same foundation, and are closely joined to the same head, Christ; so they are strictly united one to another, and are like ‘a building fitly framed together,’ or like an human body that is ‘fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth;’ all the members being set in their proper places, in a just symmetry with, and subserviency to each other; see Ephesians 2:20,21; and 4:16. 2. Jerusalem was not only the metropolis of Judea, but was the chief city in all the world, as has been observed: and this may set forth the superexcellency, glory and comeliness of the church, above all the world besides; which will more manifestly appear, when ‘the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and be exalted above the hills, and God’s Jerusalem be a praise in the earth;’ see Isaiah 2:2 and 62:7. 3. It was a very beautiful city; it had many beautiful structures in it, particularly the temple, which was the finest building that ever was seen in the world; it was also very beautiful for situation, as well as for buildings, and therefore was called the perfection of beauty; as the church also is, being beautified with the garments of Christ’s salvation. 4. It was a very rich and opulent city; especially in Solomon’s time who ‘made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones:’ in the church, not only the unsearchable riches of Christ, are preached, but also the immense riches of divine grace and mercy are expended upon the members of it; so that every inhabitant of this Jerusalem is a king and a prince: How rich must that city be, all whose inhabitants are kings and princes? such are the saints, the members of Christ’s church, who are made by Christ kings and priests to his Father. 5. It was not only the place of the residence of the kings of David’s line, where they had their palaces, and kept their courts; but also, what made it more glorious and comely than all the rest, it was ‘the city of the great king;’ even of him who is the King of kings, who was set up by his Father, as king over his holy hill of Zion: so the church is Christ’s palace, where he keeps his court, grants his presence, shows himself, and entertains his friends as courtiers; it is his rest, his habitation, where he dwells and delights to be, having chosen it for that purpose, 6. What made Jerusalem also exceeding comely, was, that the worship of God was kept up there: here was the temple; here sacrifices were offered up; hither the tribes went up to worship; and therefore is called, the city of our solemnities: Christ’s church is the place of worship where saints assemble together, where God is reverenced and adored by them; where the sacrifice of prayer and praise are offered, up; where the word of God is preached, and his ordinances administered, to the comfort of his saints, and to the glory of his name. 7. Jerusalem, as it was beautiful in its inward buildings, so it was likewise in its outward fortifications, which were both natural and artificial; it had not only many towers and bulwarks, which were its artificial fortifications, ,but had also mountains around it, which were natural ones; and for this reason the church and people of God are compared to it, in <19C502> Psalm 125:2. ‘As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people, from henceforth, even for ever:’ God himself is a wall of fire around his church; Christ is a strong tower in the midst of it, and salvation has God appointed for walls and bulwarks about it. 8. Jerusalem was a free city, as is Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all; it had many privileges and immunities, as has also the church of Christ, and all the members of it; all who are ‘fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God,’ are all Christ’s freemen, and enjoy the liberty of the gospel, and can never lose their freedoms, nor be deprived of them; they shall never be arrested by divine justice, nor come into condemnation, nor be reduced to a state of bondage.

    III. He also says of her, that she was ‘terrible as an army with banners.’

    This comparison manifestly shows, that it was not any single person that is intended in this song; not Pharaoh’s daughter, nor any single inhabitant of Jerusalem; but a considerable company of persons, a collective body, such as the church of Christ is; for a single person cannot well be compared to an army with banners. Now this shows that the church of Christ on earth is militant; she is in a warfare state, and has many enemies to fight with, as sin, Satan, and the world; she has enemies within and enemies without; ‘a great fight of afflictions’ to endure, and ‘the good fight of faith to fight,’ after which she is to receive eternal life: the use of banners has been taken notice of, on chapter 2:4. Moreover, this comparison may lead us to observe, that the church was as an army in good order, well-disciplined, having proper officers and good, armor: Christ is the chief general; the ministers of the gospel are the under-officers; the banner is love; and the armor they are accoutred with, what you read of in Ephesians 6, says not only so, but that she was in a posture of defense, ready to fight, whenever the enemy should attack her: she appeared like an army, having its general at the head of it, its colors flying, drums beating, and sword in hand; and being so, she was terrible to her enemies, sin, Satan, and the world.

    Now the terribleness of the church of Christ, here spoken of, may be understood, either, 1. Of that awe which godly persons have over the wicked; the good examples and pious conversations of the saints often distress the consciences, and strike an awe upon the minds of the ungodly; they are deterred sometimes by them from evil practices, especially when in the presence of them, and are awed by them from doing them any hurt; thus Herod feared John the Baptist, because he was a holy man, Mark 6:20.

    Or, 2. Of the invincibleness of the saints, when united together; when they are at peace one with another, and have no discord and mutiny among themselves, but keep close to each other, and endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace,’ they are like an army in battle-array, that cannot easily be broke in upon by the enemy. Or, 3. Of her constancy and undauntedness in seeking of him; and it is as if he should say, When I parted from thee, what difficulties, didst thou meet with? How wast thou abused by the watchmen and. keepers of the walls? who smote and wounded thee, and took away thy veil from thee; and yet thou wast not discouraged, but still went on in search of me, marching like an army with banners, bearing down all before thee, surmounting all difficulties until thou hadst obtained what thou soughtest for, Or, 4. Perhaps Christ may say so of her, as regarding himself: who had felt the power of her arms, and was conquered by her; like another Jacob, she ‘had power with God, and prevailed.’ Her love to Christ was so great, her faith so strong, she so diligent in her search, and so importunate in her desires, that he could not withstand her; and therefore, as one that had found her to be ‘terrible as an army with banners,’ says, in the following words, VERSE 5. Former part. Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me. — IN this and the two following verses, Christ gives a more particular account of the church’s beauty, and begins with her eyes in these words; for though they are delivered in such a manner as they be, yet they serve to commend that particular part of her, here mentioned; which is never taken notice of by Christ in this song but with commendation; see chapter 1:15 and <220401> 4:1,9; and 7:4. And in these words may be observed, I. Something that is enjoined the church by Christ; which is, to ‘turn away her eyes from him.’

    II. The reason of it; ‘for they have overcome me.’ I. Here is an injunction laid upon the church by Christ, to turn away her eyes from him; in which may be inquired, 1st , What is meant by her eyes, 2dly, What by turning them away from him. 1st , By her eyes may be meant, as has been observed on chapter 1:15, the ministers of the gospel, who are that to Christ’s body, the church, as eyes are to an human body; they are placed in a more eminent part of it; their business, is to watch, inspect, and overlook the several members of the body, and therefore are called-watchmen and overseers; they pry, search and penetrate into gospel truths, and discover them to others; they guide and direct those who are under their watch and care, ‘teaching them to observe all things’ which Christ has commanded them. The Targum, by eyes, understands the Rabbins, and wise men of the great congregation: and R. Aben Ezra, by the turning of them away, the removal or ceasing of prophecy in the second temple. Or else, by eyes may be meant, the enlightened eyes of the church’s understanding; the eyes of her faith, love, and knowledge; that eye of faith which looked upon Christ in the dark) and was the evidence of an unseen Jesus to her; so that she could say, ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine:’ this eye of faith, I say, had pierced the heart of Christ, won it, and got an entire conquest over it; which obliged him to say these words, ‘Turn sway thine eyes from me,’ etc. That love which she had shown unto him, though absent from her, discovered in a variety of expressions to the daughters of Jerusalem, appeared exceeding fair and beautiful to him; her strong and constant affections to him, being attended with solid judgment, and an exact knowledge of his person and grace, took much with his heart, struck the passions of his soul, which shewed and gave themselves vent in such expressions as these. And these eyes of faith and love, I take to be principally intended here. But, 2dly, It may be inquired what is also meant by turning away these eyes from him, Some read the words thus, ‘Turn about thine eyes over against me;’ so Ainsworth: and this. is favored by the Targum or Chaldee paraphrase upon the text; and so indeed the word signifies to turn to as well as to turn from. And this, 1. Suits well with the mind and will of Christ: which is, that his church and all believers should be continually looking to him for life and salvation, righteousness and strength, peace and pardon, joy and comfort; and in short, for every needful supply of grace, until they are brought safe to glory: his language is, ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else,’ Isaiah 45:22. 2. It suits with the experience of God’s children; who often have their eyes taken off from Christ, and set either upon their own righteousness, their duties, and their frames; or else upon creature enjoyments, the transitory and perishing things of this world; and therefore have need to be called off from them, to look to him: and perhaps this was the case of the church here; she had had her eyes intently fixed on Christ for some time, and now on a sudden they are diverted from him, and therefore he gives her this exhortation, to turn them again to him. Which shows, 3. That he was well pleased and exceedingly delighted with them: faith is a precious grace; it is so in its own nature, and in the actings of it upon the person of Christ; it is a precious grace to believers, being very useful to them in dealing with Christ, and receiving from him; and it is also precious to Christ, seeing it brings all the glory back to him: how much Christ is delighted with both these eyes of faith and love, may be seen in chapter 4:9,10. 4. This version, or reading of the words, may lead us to observe, that Christ would have us not: to take side-looks only of him, but full views; ‘turn about thine eyes over against me,’ right over against me; look me full in the face: it is true, Christ’s countenance is as the sun, when it shineth in its full strength; which we, in this imperfect state, cannot so fully and directly look at; yet there is a vast difference between faith’s looking at Christ at one time land at another: sometimes we have only a glance, a side-look at Christ; at other times, faith, with open face, beholds, ‘as in a glass, the glory of the Lord:’ our eyes, as Solomon directs, Proverbs 4:23. ‘look right on, and our eyelids look straight before us;’ and this is what Christ would have his church do here. 5. It gives us an intimation, that we should look all around Christ, and take as it were a survey of his person, and the glories and excellencies of it; turn about thine eyes; look all around me, view me from head to foot, on all sides: It is true, thou hast been viewing me, as if he should say, and giving an excellent description of me; but turn thine eyes about me again and again, thou wilt find more glories still, fresher beauties, and be able to make new discoveries of my person and grace. 6. This being the first time of their meeting together, after she had so shamefully and basely treated him; she might be filled with so much shame and confusion at the thoughts of it, that she could not lift up her eyes, and look him in the face; which agrees with the experience of the psalmist, when he said, Psalm 40:12, ‘Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up,’ And this now being her condition, Christ speaks these words to her, for her encouragement, turn thine eyes unto me; look up with an holy and humble confidence to me, for thine iniquity is done away.

    But then, if we consider the words as our translators have rendered them, we are not to understand them, either, 1. As a reprehension of her curiosity, in prying and searching into the glory and greatness of his majesty, which is the sense that some give of the words; for though Christ, as God almighty, cannot be found out to perfection; nor can we comprehend his person and grace as God-man in this imperfect’ life; nor see him as he as, which is reserved to another and more perfect one; yet this does not forbid our search and inquiries, in order to obtain a more perfect knowledge of him; though a check should be given, and a restraint laid upon all vain curiosity’: but this does not appear to be the case of the church here; Christ was not displeased with her, nor had he absented himself from her on such an account as this, but because of her slothfulness and negligence in duty; besides, it does not appear likely that Christ, when he is extolling and commending his church in such a manner, should give so severe a rebuke unto her. 2. Nor were these eyes of hers carnal and sinful, haughty and lifted up, or wanton and unchaste, and therefore disagreeable to him; no, her eyes are said to he doves eyes within her locks, modest, humble and chaste; which are well-pleasing to him, and are always commended by him. Nor, 3. Are we to understand the words as if Christ did not approve of her looking to him by faith; for there is nothing more grateful to him; faith always meets with a kind reception from him, and is always commended by him: souls need not fear its being accounted a piece of boldness or presumption in them to believe in Christ, for he gives all encouragement to it; ‘Ye believe in God,’ says he, ‘believe also in me,’ John 14:1. But, 4. It is expressive of the exceeding great passion of love he was in with her; he could stand it out no longer, but must acknowledge he was overcome by’ her, and therefore bids her turn away her eyes from him; not through any dislike, but as having his heart overpowered with love by them: the expresssion is designed to signify the exceeding greatness of Christ’s love to the church, as well as, her surpassing beauty. Unless, 5. We would rather understand it as his will, that she should cease petitioning to him. seeing he had granted her request; thus, lifting up the eyes to God, signifies prayer to him; see 2 Chronicles 20:12. <19C301> Psalm 123:1, and if we take it in this sense here, it is as if he should say; thou hast been lifting up thine eyes to me, and petitioning me, that thou mightest have some discoveries of my grace, enjoyment of my presence, and communion with my person; and now thou mayest turn away thine eyes from me, or cease petitioning; for thou hast the thing thou hast been praying and looking up to me for.

    II. The reason of Christ’s saying so to his church, or bidding her ‘turn away her eyes from him,’ is because they had overcome him. These words are very differently rendered. 1. Some read them thus, ‘for they have lifted me up,’ so Ainsworth; or, ‘that they might lift me up,’ so Junius that is, make me chearful, comfort and encourage me: there is a near union between Christ and his church, from whence arises a very great sympathy; he has a fellow-feeling with his people in all their afflictions, both inward and outward, temporal and spiritual; when they are afflicted, he is afflicted; when they are east down, he is as it were cast down with them; and when they are cheerful, he is so too; he ‘weeps with them that weep, and rejoices with them that rejoice:’ the church being in a comfortable frame, and in the exercise of faith and love upon him, he is as it were cheered by it, and. rejoiced at it; but this must be understood only as expressive of that near sympathy there is between them, and not as implying weakness or alteration in him, who is subject to no change. 2. Others read the words thus, ‘ for they have strengthened me;’ and so our translators have rendered the word, in <19D803> Psalm 138:3, and then the sense is, they have strengthened my desire towards thee and confirmed me in it, as R. David Kimchi observes; and it is as if he should say, It is true, as I am thine, and thou art mine, I always had a desire towards thee, and to thy company; and it is not long since I signified it to thee; but since thine eyes have been so intently fixed on me, thy faith and love have been so exercised upon me, methinks my desire towards thee is strengthened and increased: but this must be understood as expressive of that great regard which Christ had to her, and be taken with the same caution as before. 3. Others, as R. Sol. Jarchi, read the words thus, ‘for they have made me proud;’ the word is rendered, ‘to behave one’s self proudly,’ in Isaiah 3:5, by our translators: Christ, as I may so say, is proud of his people, whom the Father has given him, and he has purchased with his own blood; he takes a kind of pride as well as pleasure in them; he is proud of that beauty which he himself has put upon them, and of those graces which he has wrought in them, and especially that of faith, when it is in exercise:

    What notice did he take of the Centurion’s faith? and in a kind of a boasting manner, as being proud of it, say to his followers, ‘I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel:’ here is an instance of faith for you, such an one as is not to be matched in Israel. 4. Others read them thus, ‘they have made me fierce;’ not with anger and indignation, but with love; for there is a power, a force, a fierceness in love, as well as in wrath; ‘love is strong as death;’ it is so not only in Christ’s people towards him, but more especially in him towards them; his affections are very strong towards them, and are sometimes let out with a greater force upon them than at other times, as they seem to be here. 5. R. Aben Ezra renders them thus, ‘they are stronger than me,’ or, ‘they have taken away my strength;’ so that I am as one that is dead, and have no life and spirit in me; these sparkling eyes of thine have transported me into a kind of ecstasy, that I am scarce myself: and to this purpose the Septuagint render it, ‘they have made me to fly away;’ that is, out of myself; which agrees with our version, ‘they have overcome me,’ I am not master of myself; the sense is the same with chapter 4:9. Now this shows us, (1.) The power of faith; which not only ‘subdues kingdoms, stops the mouths of lions, and puts to flight the armies of the aliens,’ but conquers God himself. (2.) This is owing very much to the importunity of it, which is increased by seeming denials: faith will not let Christ alone, nor let him go, nor will I cease petitioning, till it has got the blessing; sad the repulses it meets with, do but increase its importunity; see Genesis 32:26; Exodus 32:9,10; Matthew 15:24-28. (3.) Christ’s being overcome by the church, does not imply any, weakness in him; but is a discovery of his astonishing, condescending love and grace, that he should be willing to be held, as it were a captive, by a poor sinful creature; that He should be willing to be overcome by us, who has conquered all our enemies, sin, Satan, hell and death for us, is surprising and amazing; and perhaps on this account, as well as upon some others, we may be said to be ‘more than conquerors,’ because we are the conquerors of him who has conquered all.

    VERSE 5. LATTER PART — Thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead.

    VERSE 6. Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep, which go up from the washing, whereof every one beareth twins, and there is not one barren among them.

    VERSE 7. As a piece of pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks. THESE commendations of the church’s beauty are delivered in the same words in chapter <220401> 4:1-3, but the repetition of them here is not vain and idle, but may be for the following reasons: 1. To show the reality and certainty of her beauty; that it was no imaginary beauty, but a real one: so things are sometimes repeated for the confirmation of them. 2. To put her in mind of it, that she might value it, and herself upon it, as coming from Christ; who had made her perfectly comely, through the comeliness which he had put upon her. 3. To assure her that her beauty was still the same, and that he had the same opinion of it as ever he had, notwithstanding all her failings and infirmities; and therefore expresses it in the very same words he had used before her backslidings from him. 4. To manifest the unchangeableness of his love towards her; that he is ‘Jesus, the same today, yesterday, and for ever;’ that is ‘the Lord that changes not, and therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed.’ But having explained these words in chapter 4. I shall not consider them any farther here; but only just observe some variations and differences between them, though they are not indeed very material. In verse 5, the word mount is omitted, which may be supplied from chapter <220401> 4:1. In verse 6, the word sheep is expressed, which is understood in chapter 4:2, as are the words even shorn omitted here, though expressed there. In verse 7, is wholly omitted that part of the description which concerns the beauty of the church’s lips and speech; though it is added at the end of the sixth verse by the Septuagint; but is not in the Hebrew copies; neither is it taken notice of by the Targum on the place; nay, the Masora on chapter 4:3, remarks some words as only used in that place, and therefore this was not repeated here in the copies then in use.

    VERSE 8. There are threescore queens and fourscore concubines; and virgins without number.

    VERSE 9.

    My dove, my undefiled, is but one; the is the only one of her mother; she is the choice one of her that bare her: the daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.

    CHRIST having commended the church’s beauty, both in general and in particular instances, as she might be considered by herself, without respect to others, in the preceding verses; now commends her, as she might stand related to, or be compared with others. And, I. The persons with whom she stands compared, and to whom she appears preferable, are ‘queens, concubines, and virgins without number.’

    II. The things in which she appears to be preferable to them, are, First, That she ‘is but one.’

    Secondly, ‘The only one of her me, thee.’ Thirdly , ‘The choice one of her that bare her.’ And then, III. Her beauty is commended by the notice the ‘daughters, queens, and concubines’ took of it; who, as soon as ever ‘they saw her, blessed and praised her.’

    I. The persons with whom she stands compared, and appears preferable to, are, ‘the threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number,’ mentioned in verse 8, which words may be considered, either as an assertion that there are so many, a certain number being put for an uncertain one; or else, as a supposition, though there may be so many, yet ‘my undefiled is but one,’ etc. Queens are those who were the principal wives of kings, who brought portions with them; whose children inherited, and they themselves, with their royal husbands, had the management of affairs: Concubines are secondary wives, or half wives, as the word f225 may be rendered; they were such who brought no portions with them; f226 and though they were admitted to the fellowship of the bed, yet their children did not inherit, but had only some gifts given to them; nor had they themselves any share in the government of the house, but rather acted like servants under the other; such were Hagar, Zilpah, Bilhah, etc. ‘The virgins without number,’ are unmarried persons; these were the maids of honor, who waited and attended upon the queens. Now there are in the words an allusion either to the custom and practice of kings and great persons, who had more wives than one, had many concubines, and a large number of virgins to attend upon them; and this was not only the practice of heathen, but also of Jewish princes, as David and Solomon; which latter, more especially, had a large number: and it is thought that a regard is had more particularly to his queens and concubines in this text; for which reason some have thought that this back was written before he gave so great a loose to his lusts, as we find he did; for we are told, 1 Kings 11:3, that he had ‘seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines. Or else, the allusion is to a nuptial solemnity, and the ceremony of introducing the bride into the bridegroom’s house, who used to be attended with a large number of persons of distinction; so four times sixty virgins are said to attend the nuptials of Menelaus and Helena: see Psalm 45, between which and this song there is a very great resemblance; and perhaps that was the plan of this: there the queen is represented as standing in ‘gold of Ophir,’ which answers to Christ’s church and bride here, and means the same there: also ‘kings daughters,’ which answer to the queens here, are said to be among her ‘honorable women’ who were attendants on her; and the ‘virgins, her companions,’ are said to ‘follow her,’ when she was introduced into the king’s presence.

    Now by these ‘threescore queens, fourscore concubines, and virgins without number,’ may be meant, either, 1st, The several kingdoms and nations of the world: and by queens may be meant those kingdoms and countries, which are more large, rich, and flourishing; by concubines, those which are inferior to them, either in largeness, riches, or numbers; and by virgins, the vast multitude of inhabitants which fall them; and then the sense is this: though there are many large, rich and populous nations in the world; yet my church is preferable to them all: these all put together, cannot equal her; for ‘as the lily is among thorns,’ and is preferable to them; ‘so my love is among the daughters,’ the nations of the world, and is preferable to them all. Or, 2dly , By them may be meant false churches, who pretend to be the true spouse of Christ, but are not so: by queens may be meant, those who boast themselves of their riches and numbers, and would be esteemed on that account the true bride of Christ; as the church of Rome, who ‘saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow;’ and yet is an harlot, nay, ‘the mother of harlots.’ By concubines, such who are inferior in wealth and numbers, but equally corrupt in principles, and which make the same pretensions the others do; such are the Arian, Socinian, etc., churches: and by ‘virgins without number,’ the large multitude of poor, weak and ignorant people, who are seduced and carried aside by them. But now Christ’s church, though it does not make so great a figure in the world; nor does it appear in so much external pomp and splendor; nor has it the riches and numbers that these may have; yet in Christ’s esteem is preferable to them all. Though, 3dly, Others think, that the several sorts of preachers in the church are here intended: and that by queens, are meant ministers of the first rank; who are faithful to Christ and his gospel, and are instrumental in bringing forth many souls unto him: and by concubines, such who ‘corrupt the word of God, and handle it deceitfully:’ who are ‘false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ;’ who seek not Christ but themselves; not his honor, but their own applause: and by virgins, such who, though regenerated, vet at present are not fit for the ministry, but are training up for it in the several churches or schools of learning; and may be such, whom the apostle calls novices; not a novice, nefuton , a young tender plant ; one that is newly planted in Christianity, and has arrived to some knowledge of the gospel, but as yet not fit for the office of a bishop. But, 4thly, The words seem rather to be understood of the several degrees of believers. By queens, may be meant believers of the highest form; such whom Christ has honored with greater gifts and larger measures of grace; in whose hearts and lives grace reigns more gloriously than in others; and who have a greater nearness to Christ, and more communion with him than others have: and by concubines, believers of an inferior sort, who are of a more servile and legal spirit, have more of ‘a spirit of bondage than the spirit of adoption,’ but yet these have fellowship and communion with Christ at times: and by virgins, young converts, newborn babes, that have not so much experience as either of the former: so that this distribution of believers into ‘queens, concubines, and virgins,’ seems to suit with the division of them into ‘fathers, young men, and children,’ which is made, 1 John 2:13,14, and what seems to strengthen this sense of the words, is their blessing and praising the bride in the following verse. In an ancient tract of the Jews, called Midrash Hanneelam, the queens, in the next verse, are said to be the fathers or patriarchs; the concubines, the proselytes of righteousness; and the daughters, the daughters of Jerusalem.

    Now Christ’s church, considered as a collective body, is preferable to single believers, even to the greatest of them: and it is also well observed by one, that there are more concubines than queens, and more virgins than either of them; for there are more weak believers and babes in Christ, than there are strong ones; those of the highest rank and form are very rare; there are but few to be found in comparison of the other; but Christ’s bride comprehends them all, and is preferable to them; which is the next thing to be considered.

    II. Christ, in verse 9, commends his church above all these queens, concubines and virgins; he gives her two excellent titles, which show her to be superior to others; the first of which, ‘my dove,’ has been explained in chapter 2:14, and the other, ‘my undefiled,’ in chapter 5:2, and therefore need no farther explanation here. The things in which she appears to be preferable to all these fore-mentioned persons, are, First, That she is but one, and they are many: which may be expressive, 1. Of the church’s fewness in number; who, if compared with the nations of the world, which is the first sense given of the former words, she is but like one to sixty or eighty, nay to an innumerable multitude; there are but few that are chosen, though many are externally called: Christ’s church is a remnant, according to the election of grace; it is but one of a city, and two of a family that Christ brings to Zion; they are but a little flock, to whom the heavenly kingdom is bequeathed. 2. Of the church’s unity in herself. (1.) She is but one body; as there are various members in an human body, and yet but one body; so likewise is the church, though consisting of many believers; as there are many sheep and lambs in a flock, and yet but one flock, under the care of one shepherd; many beds in a garden, and a variety of spices, flowers, herbs and plants in these beds, and yet but one garden; even so, though there are many particular congregated churches, and in those churches many believers; yet there is but one ‘general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven.’ (2.) She has but one spirit, which actuates and influences this body, the same Spirit that dwells in the head, Christ, dwells in his body, the church; and the same that dwells in the body, dwells in every member of it; for though there are diversities of gifts, and various graces, yet there is but one Spirit who distributes them to the several members, for their use and profit. (3.) She has but one head and husband, Lord and Savior: she has but one head, to whom she holds, and from whom she receives life and nourishment, and so increases with the increase of God; but one husband, whom she owns and acknowledges as such, and to whom she is ‘espoused as a chaste virgin;’ but one lord. under whose government she is, and to whom alone she yields obedience; and but one mediator, that she regards, and makes use of, and that is, ‘the man Christ Jesus.’ (4.) Though the church consists of many members; yet being but one body united to one head, and actuated by one and the same Spirit, they enjoy the same privileges; they are built upon one and the same foundation, Christ; they are washed in the same blood; they wear the same righteousness, and receive from the same fullness, ‘grace for grace.’ (5.) They make a profession of one and the same faith, for as there is but one Lord, so there is but one faith; the doctrine of grace is invariable; it is like the author of it, ‘the same yesterday, today, and for ever;’ there never was another gospel, nor never will be; the faith which the church now professes, is what was ‘once delivered to the saints,’ to be kept by them; and which they, standing fast in one spirit, should strive for the purity of; which cannot be, unless they are ‘perfectly joined together in the samemind, and in the same judgment. (6.) They are in the same one in worship: the object of worship is one and the same; and so is the Spirit which assists them in it, as well as the form of it; for as there is but one Lord, and one faith, so there is but one baptism: whose subjects and mode of administration should continue the same, without any variation, until the end of time: and but one Lord’s supper: and so it may be said of every other ordinance, and of every part of religious worship; for saints, as they worship one and the same God, under the influences of one and the same Spirit, and in the same way; so likewise should they, with one consent: which they cannot be said to do, when an ordinance is administered by some one way, and by some another. (7.) They are one in affections, or at least ought to be; their chief business should be to ‘keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace,’ and that from the aforesaid considerations: for this is one end of their calling, the glory of their profession, and a distinguishing character of their being the disciples and church of Christ.

    This may be also expressive of her being the only spouse and bride of Christ; ‘my dove, my undefiled is but one;’ that is, though other princes may have their sixty queens and eighty concubines, and an innumerable company of virgins to wait upon them; yet I have but one, and am well satisfied with her, I desire none but her; my one is preferable to their many; as she says, ‘I am my beloved’s:’ that is, I only am his, he has none besides me and ‘his desire is towards me,’ and to none else.

    Secondly, He says, that ‘she is the only one of her mother.’ By her mother is meant ‘Jerusalem, which is above, which is the mother of us all:’ and by her being ‘the only one of her mother,’ we are to understand that she had no other but her: for though we read, in chapter 1:6, of ‘her mother’s children,’ yet we are to understand them of carnal professors; who had the name, but not the nature of children; were not true sons of the church, were bastards, and not sons. Or else the meaning is, that she was to him as a mother’s only child; no mother could more tenderly love an only child, than he did her: so that it may be expressive of that strong affection and tender passion which he bore to her.

    Thirdly, he says, that ‘she is the choice one of her that bare her,’ which is a periphrasis of her mother; and her being the ‘choice one of her,’ shows how much she was valued and esteemed by her; of all her mother’s children, she was loved the best. Moreover, the word may be translated, ‘the pure or clean one’; and so she is as clothed with that ‘fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of the saints,’ as washed in Christ’s blood, which ‘cleanseth from all sin;’ as sanctified by the Spirit, purified by faith, and sprinkled with clean water, the grace of the everlasting covenant: also, as she was free from the pollution of error and false worship; was of an unspotted conversation; and was now, or at least had been lately, in the furnace of affliction, where Christ had purified her, and made her white and clean.

    III. Christ commends her beauty, by observing what notice the daughters, queens and concubines took of it, and how much they praised and commended her for it: ‘The daughters saw her, and blessed her, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her:’ it may seem strange that concubines should praise a queen; but it was not unusual in the eastern countries; with the Persians, as the queen admitted of many concubines, by the order of her lord the king; so the queen was had in great veneration, and even adored by the concubines. Which may be understood, 1. Of the great esteem which the church had or should have in the world, and that from the great men of it; which will appear more visibly in the latter day, when those prophecies shall be fulfilled, of which we read in Isaiah 49:23 and 60:3,10,11, when kings shall be, her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing mothers; and God’s Jerusalem, the church, shall be the praise of the whole earth. Or, 2. Of the great value and esteem which professors, and especially young converts, have of the church; in whose eyes she is ‘the fairest among women;’ who, as soon as ever they saw her, were ravished with her beauty, loved her, and wished themselves as happy as she: for, 3. They blessed her; that is accounted her happy; as well they might, seeing she was ‘blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ;’ and indeed whether we consider the saints, either as to their entertainment in God’s house, or their employment there, it may be said of them what the queen of Sheba said of Solomon’s servants, 1 Kings 10:8. ‘Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom.’

    And, 4. They wished all happiness to her, and prayed for it, which also may be the sense of the words, they blessed her; see <19C908> Psalm 129:8, they prayed for the peace of Jerusalem, which was their duty; and in doing which, they show their affection to the church: nay, 5. They not only thought well of her, and wished well to her; but they also praised her, that is, they spoke well of her, and highly commended her beauty: so that Christ was not alone in his opinion of her; for others thought her to be an accomplished beauty, as well as he: and this, as it serves to commend her beauty, so its being taken notice of by Christ, shows how much he was pleased with it, for as those that touch his people, ‘touch the apple of his eye;’ and whatsoever is spoken against them, he takes as spoken against himself; so, whenever they are praised and spoken well of, he is well pleased with it.

    VERSE 10. Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners? THESE are either the words of Christ, commending and wondering at the beauty of his church, and confirming the daughters praises of her; which shows that they were neither wrong, nor were they alone in their opinion of her; for she was an astonishing beauty in the eyes of him, who seeth not as man seeth, neither judges after the outward appearance: or else, they are the words of the daughters of Jerusalem continued; and this I rather incline to, for the following reasons: 1. The connection between this and the preceding verse is very easy; especially if we supply the word saying, as it is sometimes done, as in Jeremiah 31:3, and so read the words thus; “the daughters saw her, and blessed her; the queens and the concubines, and they praised her, saying, ‘Who is she that looketh forth as the morning?’” etc., 2. This gives a ready answer to such a question that she might be asked, What was it the daughters, queens, and concubines said of her, when they gave her commendations, declared her the happy person, and sung her praises? why, it was this, ‘Who is she that looketh forth as the morning?’ etc., 3. It confirms what Christ had said of her, in verse 4, that she was ‘terrible as an army with banners;’ that they had just the same opinion of her as he had, and therefore use the same words: but if they were supposed to be the words of Christ, it would make a manifest tautology, which is scarce to be allowed of in the same commendation. 4. It best agrees with other parts of this song, which appear to he the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, as chapter 3:6 and 8:5. 5. The Targum, or Chaldee paraphrase upon this text, takes them to be the words of the people or nations of the world, which, in this paraphrase, are sometimes understood by the daughters of Jerusalem. And though the words axe interrogatory, yet they are not the effect of ignorance, but of wonder and surprise, These daughters were not ignorant of the church; they knew who she was, but were surprised at her glory and beauty: the way of speaking is much like that in Isaiah 63:1. ‘Who is he that cometh from Edom,’ etc. Having now considered whose words they are, I shall in the next place consider the words themselves, and the meaning of them: and they may be expressive, First, Of the state and condition of the church in the several ages of the world; especially in those three remarkable ones, that before the law, that under the law, and this under the gospel. There is a manifest gradation in the text; and this appears in the church, in those several periods; in which there was an increase of her faith, light, knowledge, and glory. And, 1st, The state of the church before the law was given, from Adam to Moses, may be intended in the first expression, ‘Who is she that looketh forth as the morning?’ And here give me leave to observe, 1. That Adam’s sin brought not only a night of darkness upon his own soul, but also upon all the world besides: man, who in his first creation was endued with light and knowledge, is now become a poor, dark creature, by the fall; nay, in darkness itself: he is born and brought up in darkness, and walks on in it, not knowing whether he goes, until he is called by divine grace; when he appears to be a child of the day, and not of night, nor of darkness. 2. The first display of grace to fallen man, which was in the garden, after the night of darkness had invaded his soul, was like the dawn of the morning; when the seed of the woman, the glorious Messiah, was made known to Adam; as who should break the head of the serpent, and so redeem him, and those of his fallen race, whom God had set apart for himself: this struck the light of joy and comfort into his soul; those dark and dreadful apprehensions he had of things, in a great measure then vanished and disappeared; this breaking up of covenant grace unto him, was like the break of day, or like the first appearance of a glorious morning: and as for Satan, whose works are works of darkness, and cannot bear the light; like a beast of prey he leered off, and lurked into his den, when this morning light thus first broke out: this was the first appearance and revelation of grace to fallen man. 3. This light of grace, which now began to show itself, like the morning light, increased yet more and more: there were greater breakings forth of it afterwards; not only to Adam himself, who was taught by God the way of sacrificing, and therein to look by faith to the great sacrifice, Christ, who was to be offered up for the sin of man; but also to succeeding patriarchs, particularly to Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord, became a preacher of righteousness; and that not of moral righteousness only, but also of evangelical, even the righteousness which is by faith: but more especially to Abraham, to whom it was promised, that the Messiah should be of his seed, and in that seed all nations be blessed; there was so great a discovery of grace made unto him, that the gospel is said to be preached unto him: and then to his grandson Jacob, there was a greater discovery made; for not only the Messiah was revealed unto him as God’s salvation, which he says he waited for, and that he should be of Abraham’s seed; but also more particularly, that he should spring from the tribe of Judah: the time of his coming is pointed out by him, as well as the glory and magnificence which should attend him, by mighty confluence of people to him, in that famous prophecy of his, Genesis 49:10, thus the morninglight of the gospel went on apace, and increased exceedingly. But, 4. Though here was light broke forth, and that increasing, yet it was but small, in comparison of what appeared in after ages: the first display of grace seems rather to be by way of threatening to Satan, than by way of promise, to fallen man; and tho’ it was made known to our first parents, that the Messiah should be the seed of the woman; yet perhaps it was not so clearly revealed, till Isaiah’s time, that he should be born of a virgin; which might be the reason that our mother Eve was so mistaken in the birth of her first son, as to imagine that she had got the Messiah; for so those winds, in Genesis 4:1, according to some, may be read, ‘I have gotten a man, the Lord;’ and Jonathan Ben Uzziel, in his Targum on the place, paraphrases it thus, ‘I have got the man, the angel of the Lord;’ but she could never have thought so, had she known that he was to be born of a virgin. Moreover, the greatness of his person, his several offices, of prophet, pries, and king; the nature, efficacy, and end of his sufferings; his resurrection, ascension and session at the Father’s right hand, are more clearly spoken of by David, in his book of Psalms, and by Isaiah, in his prophecy, than were before; and no doubt but there was more light in the church, in David’s, Solomon’s, and more especially in Isaiah’s time, than there had been in ages preceding. But yet, 5. Those discoveries of grace, which were mate before the law was given, like the cheerful morning, brought joy and comfort along with them, particularly to A tam; who stood trembling, expecting every moment to have the awful sentence of wrath pronounced, and the severe stroke of justice given; when on a sudden grace appears, a Savior is revealed; and the darkness of guilt and horror which filled his soul disappears, and in the room of it an universal joy and pleasure diffuses itself. The Jews tell us of ten songs that are sung in the world; and the first, they say, was that which Adam sung when the Lord pardoned his iniquity; and indeed he had a great deal of reason for it. Nay, it was not only joy to Adam; but also to all the angels in heaven, who stood astonished and surprised to see all human nature lost at once, and that to all appearance irrecoverably; but whilst they were waiting to see what the issue of things would be, a glorious display of grace is made; the way of salvation, by the incarnate Son of God, is opened; which caused these bright seraphs to clap their wings, and these morning stars to sing together, ‘Glory to God in the highest:’ for if they rejoice at the conversion of a single sinner muchmore would they at the tidings of salvation to Adam, and to so many of his race; and so all after discoveries of grace, to succeeding patriarchs, were more or less attended with joy and pleasure: it is particularly remarked of Abraham, John 8:56, that he saw Christ’s day, and was glad. 2dly, The state of the church under the law, may be represented under the second expression, ‘fair as the moon; which, though it receives its light from the sun yet splendor and brightness are ascribed to it, Job 31:26, and by other writers, it is represented as fair and beautiful; and the beautiful form of persons is expressed by it. Such was the nature of divine worship under that dispensation, that it may very aptly be set forth by this phrase; and I cannot but be of opinion, that the ceremonial law is intended by the moon, which is said to be under the church’s feet, in Revelation 12:1. for though it was abolished by the death of Christ, yet it was kept up and maintained by many of the Jews, even of those that believed; so that it as one of the greatest difficulties that the Christian church had to grapple with; for though it was under the feet of Christ) yet it was a long time before it was under the feet of the church; and a wonder it was when it was accomplished; for persons are naturally fond of ceremonies; and many had rather part with a doctrine, or an ordinance of the gospel, than with an idle ceremony, or an old custom, though never so ridiculous; and this was in a great measure the case of the Jews; ‘Thou seest, brother,’ says James to Paul, Acts 21:20, ‘how many thousands of Jews there are which believe, and they are all zealous of the law.’ Now the ceremonial law may be very aptly represented by the moon; for, 1. It consisted much in the observation of new moons; its solemn feasts were governed by them; see 2 Chronicles 8:12,13; Isaiah 1:13,14; Amos 8:5; Colossians 2:16. 2. There was some light in it, and it gave light to the saints in the night of Jewish darkness; it pointed out Christ unto them; and was their schoolmaster, to teach and lead them to him. But, 3. Like the moon, it was the lesser light, that which ruled by night, and not by clay: the light it gave was inferior to that which saints have under the gospel-dispensation. 4. As the moon has its spots, so had this its imperfections; had it been faultless, there had been no need of a new dispensation, to have succeeded; but God had provided some better thing for us, New Testament saints, that they, the Old Testament saints, without us should not be made perfect; for this law could not make them so; it could neither perfectly sanctify, nor justify, nor expiate sin. 5. Like the moon, was variable and changeable: it is done away; this middle wall of partition is broken down; this hand-writing of ordinances is blotted out; it is not only like the moon in the wane, waxen old, but is also entirely vanished away. But now, notwithstanding all this, the church, as considered in her observance of the ceremonial law, was fair; there was a beauty in that kind of worship; the laws of it, being the ordinances and institutions of God, and when performed in faith, and according to the will of God, were amiable and lovely. But, 3dly, The state of the church under the gospel-dispensation, may be said to be ‘clear as the sun;’ for now the glorious sun of righteousness is risen, that great ‘light of the world’ has appeared, and made ‘that day,’ which, by way of emphasis, is so often spoken of in the books of the prophets: now the shadows are fled and gone, Christ, the substance, being come; greater light, and more knowledge, with clearer faith, are the saints possessed of than they were under the law; ‘the least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than John the Baptist: now saints, not with faces veiled, but with open face; not through cloudy shadows and cloudy sacrifices; but as in a clear, transparent glass behold the glory of the Lord, and are changed’ into it; Some Jewish writers interpret this of the coming of the Messiah, and redemption by him, before whom darkness will flee away.

    Moreover, as there is one glory of the moon, and another glory of the sun, and that of the sun far exceeds that of the moon; so the glory of the gospel dispensation far exceeds that of the legal one: if the church was then ‘fair as the moon,’ she must be now ‘clear as the sun:’ The excelling glory of the gospel-dispensation is set in a true light by the apostle, in Corinthians 3:7-10. Now, 4thly, The church, in all these several periods whether she be considered before the law, or under the law, or under the gospel, is ‘terrible as an army with banners;’ the church was always militant in all ages of the world; and as she never wanted enemies to fight with, so she never wanted a leader, and a commander to march before her; nor proper officers to keep her in order; nor suitable armor to put on and use; nor did she ever fail of victory, but was always ‘more than a conqueror through him that loved her;’ and so was like a well-ordered or well-disciplined army, terrible to her enemies. Secondly, The state of the Christian church, from the times of Christ and his apostles, until his second coming and presentation of her to himself in glory, may be here represented. And, 1st, The primitive church, or that in the age of the apostles, may be intended by the first expression; ‘Who is she that looketh forth as the morning?’ for then the morning of gospel light broke, and swiftly and suddenly spread itself over the nations of the world; it produced joy and gladness wherever it came; and moved on irresistibly, maugre all the opposition that was made against it; and could no more be stopped in its progress, than the morning-light can. 2dly, The state of the church, in some after-ages, may be set forth by the next phrase, ‘fair as the moon,’ it being variable and changeable; and like the moon, had different phases and appearances; sometimes lying under sore trials and grievous persecutions, and at other times enjoying rest and peace; sometimes retaining the doctrines and ordinances of the gospel. in their power and purity, and at other times overrun with errors and heresies. 3dly, The church being said to be ‘clear as the sun,’ may either be descriptive of her state and condition in Constantine’s time, when she was ‘clothed with the sun;’ was in a great deal of splendor and glory; had the moon, the ceremonial law, ‘under her feet,’ and ‘a crown of twelve stars upon her head,’ the glorious doctrine of the twelve apostles; and were as terrible to her adversaries ‘as an army with banners:’ or else, the state of the church in the latter-day-glory; when ‘the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold:’ or else, as glorified in heaven, enjoying consummate happiness with Christ in the kingdom of his Father; where ‘the righteous shine forth as the sun,’ and are out of the reach of all their enemies.

    Thirdly, These words may also be expressive of the state and condition of particular believers, who, in their first conversion, may be said to ‘look forth as the morning;’ their light and knowledge being but small, and their faith weak; but yet, like the morning-light, increasing; for ‘the path of the just is as the shining light which shines more and more unto the perfect day:’ as also her being compared to the morning, may intend the beauty f240 and glory of believers, both in their faith and walk; ‘she looks forth as the morning;’ the look of faith is exceeding beautiful in Christ’s eve; see chapter 4:9, or, ‘goes forth as the rising morn’ as the Vulgate Latin reads it; that is, her talk and conversation is exceeding comely. Moreover, believers, as to their sanctification, may be said to be ‘fair as the moon,’ which has its spots in it; and what light it has, it derives from the sun: so the sanctification of believers is imperfect, and all the light, grace, and holiness they have come from the sun of righteousness; but then as to their justification, they are clear as the sun. all fair and no spot in them; and in their faith and conversation are terrible to their enemies, as an army with banners.

    VERSE 11.

    I went down into the garden of nuts, to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.

    THESE are either the words of the church, or of Christ: Some take them to be the words of the church, who not finding Christ on earth, sought him in the heavenly paradise, which they understand by this nut-garden; and by her going down into it, ,he lively exercise of her faith on the unseen joys and glories of it, in looking to them, seeking of them, and pressing after them: though others who also understand them as the words of the church; yet think that they represent her as giving a reason why, upon his departure from her, she went not only into the city, but also into the fields, and that in the night-season, which might not appear so reputable to one of her sex; therefore to wipe off all reproach, and to remove all suspicion of evil designs in her, as well as to inform him now she had employed herself during his absence, she tells him that she went into the nut-garden, to inspect the fruits of it, and to see in what case the vines and pomegranates were. Tho’ I rather think that they are the words of Christ, declaring to his church where he went, and what he employed himself about, when he departed from her; and that he was not even then altogether unmindful of her; but narrowly looked into the state and case of her, and her members, when she thought he was at a distance from her: and this agrees with what Christ had said, in chapter <220501> 5:1, ‘I am come into my garden,’ etc. and also confirms what she had said, in 5:2, of this chapter, ‘My beloved is gone down into his garden,’ etc. Besides, it best suits with him, who is the owner of the garden, to look after the fruits of it, and to see in what case it stands: moreover, this was the usual place of Christ’s residence. Taking them then to be the words of Christ, there are two things to be considered. I. Want is meant by this ‘garden of nuts,’ into which, Christ says, he ‘went down.’

    II. The tact of his going there; which is threefold. 1st , ‘To see the fruits of the valley.’ 2dly, ‘To see whether the vine flourished.’ 3dly, Whether ‘the pomegranates budded.’ 1. I shall inquire what is meant by this ‘garden of nuts,’ into which Christ is said to go Some Jewish interpreter, understand by it, the second temple, which was built by the commandment of Cyrus king of Persia; but it seems better to understand it of the church of Christ, which is compared to a garden, in chapter 4:12, and for what reasons has been there shown; and Christ being said to go down into it, may be an allusion to Solomon’s gardens, which lay low, and required a descent unto them from his palace; and thus not only is expressive of the state and condition of Christ’s church, but also of his condescension in visiting it, as has been observed on ver. 2. Now this garden here, is said to be a ‘garden of nuts;’ a garden where nut-trees only grew; for the ancients had places appropriated to such trees, and with propriety might be called nut-gardens; tho’, by what follows, there seem to be vines and pomegranates, and other fruits, as well as nuts in this garden; nuts might be the principal tree whence it had its name. The words are by some translated, ‘the pruned gardens,’ or ‘the gardens of pruning or shearing:’ deriving the word from a root, which signifies to cut or sheer; and so signifies that it is a garden well dressed, and pruned, and kept in good order: and so indeed is Christ’s church; and therefore is opposite to, and different from the field and vineyard of the sluggard, Proverbs 24:30,31, which was neither in good order, without nor within; without, its stone-wall, its fence, was broken down; and within, it was all overrun with thorns and nettles: but Christ’s garden is in a much better case; for, 1. It is well fenced with sovereign powerful and distinguishing grace; nay, God himself is ‘a wall of fire’ about it, and has appointed ‘salvation for walls and bulwarks’ all around it; so that it is strongly enclosed, and well secured from the ‘boar out of the wood’ wasting it, and from ‘ the wild beast of the field’ devouring it. 2. It is well planted; it is not an empty garden within, but is well stored with plants of all sorts, and those the most excellent, as appears from chap. 4:13,14, it is filled with ‘trees of righteousness,’ which are laden with the fruit thereof, and therefore are very valuable. 3. It is well pruned; for as Christ is the vine, the principal plant in this garden, on which all others grow, and from whence they receive their life and nourishment; so Christ’s ‘Father is the husbandman, the vinedresser, the keeper of the garden, and he keeps the plants in good order; for ‘every branch that beareth not fruit,’ he lops it off, and taketh it away; and ‘every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth,’ or pruneth it, ‘that it may bring forth more fruit, John 15:1,2. 4. It is well watered; as the Lord is the keeper of it, so he ‘waters it every moment’ with the refreshing dews and delightful showers of divine line and grace; there as a fountain in the midst of it to water all the beds, and this is Christ himself; who therefore, in chapter 4:15, is called the ‘fountain of gardens;’ who also is the ‘well of living waters;’ and whose grace is as ‘streams from Lebanon:’ so that every’ particular believer, every plant here, is ‘like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not.’ 5. It is well weeded; there are tares grow up in Christ’s field, and weeds in his garden, such as hypocrites and carnal professors; and Christ sometimes weeds his garden of many of these; and that by causing the sun of persecution to arise upon them, which scorches and burns them up, they not having root in themselves; he sometimes takes his fan in his hand, and with it purges his flower of the chaff, and clears his churches of such sort of persons as these; but this he will do more effectually at the last day, when he shall send his angels to ‘gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity,’ Matthew 13:41.

    Moreover, by these well-dressed or pruned gardens may be meant, those particular churches of Christ, which are regularly formed, are in good order, and are well disciplined; whose members are lively in the exercise of their faith, walk agreeably in their lives and conversations; are zealous for the truths of the gospel, and for the maintaining the ordinances of it in their purity; and are not remiss in dealing with offenders, whether they be immoral in their lives, or erroneous in their principles, such were. in a great measure, the churches of Ephesus, and Colosse, see Revelation 2:3; Colossians 2:5, and with such churches Christ delights to be; and these may expect his presence.

    But the word, though only used in this place, is by Jewish writers generally rendered a nut; and so it is by the Septuagint, as well as by our translators and others: this is very properly taken notice of in this lovepoem; it being usual for new-married persons to get nuts, and throw them among children to make pastime; and to signify, among other things, that they now renounced childish things. And by the garden, is meant the church of Christ, as has been observed before; and by the nuts which grow in this garden, from whence it has the name of a nut-garden, are meant believers; who may be called so, for the following reasons: 1. Because though they are mean and abject without, yet are glorious and valuable within: the ‘king’s daughter is all glorious;’ the inside of a believer, like that of the nut, is the best part of him: the outward appearance of saints is but mean, and the world judging according to that, not capable of seeing any farther, look upon them as the off-scouring of all things: but Christ, who knows their inside as well as their outside, knows what they are by his grace, as well as what they are by nature, that though they are black in themselves, yet are comely in him; he reckons them the excellent in the earth, in whom is all his delight. 2. Because of their several coverings: in the nut there are the husk and shell, and besides these, an inward covering; believers have several coverings; they have the robe of Christ’s righteousness to cover them, which may answer the shell of the nut; being lasting and durable, will abide for ever, and will bring the soul that is enwrapped in it safe to glory: there is also ‘the new man,’ or garment of sanctification, which is put on by the believer; and this may answer the inward covering of the nut, as being more thin and tender, weak and imperfect: and then there is likewise the outward garment of a gospel-conversation; and this may answer the husk of the nut, as being the coarser and more imperfect covering, which, continually needs washing in Christ’s blood. 3. Because of their hardiness in enduring afflictions: they wade through a sea of troubles in this world, before they enter the kingdom; and this they do with becoming cheerfulness, patience, courage, and magnanimity of mind; they ‘are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed,’ 2 Corinthians 4:8,9 and that because they are supported under all these trials and exercises, and carried above them by a superior power. 4. Because of their hiddenness; the best part of the nut is hid: the saints are hid from everlasting, in the bosom of the Father, in the hands of the Son, and in the everlasting covenant of grace; until they are made openly to appear to be the people of God, by powerful and efficacious grace in conversion, and therefore are called God’s ‘hidden ones;’ and after conversion they are hid from the men of the world; the work of grace upon their souls is hid from them, and therefore called ‘the hidden man of the heart;’ their joys and comforts are hid from them, and so indeed is their whole life of grace here, as well as their life of glory hereafter: for though they are ‘the sons of God, yet it does not appear’ so fully to themselves, much less to the men of the world, ‘what they shall be.’ 5. Because of the safety and security both of their persons and their graces: nuts, in the greatest showers of rain, have only their outside washed the more, but their inside remains untouched, and is no ways hurt; so saints are safe and secure, notwithstanding all the floods, storms, and tempests of temptations, persecutions and afflictions; being built upon the rock, Christ Jesus, and hid in him, the ark of the covenant; the inward principle of grace in them cannot be lost; that hidden seed is incorruptible, and will abide so for ever. 6. Nuts often grow in clusters; which may not only denote the multitude of believers, and their close adherence to Christ, his gospel, cause and interest; but also their unity among themselves: and as it is a very pleasant and delightful sight to see nuts grow in clusters; so it is much more to see ‘brethren dwell together in unity.’ 7. Saints being compared to nuts, and to those of the best sort which grow in gardens, shows, that they have not only the shell of an outward profession, but also the kernel of true grace: some have only ‘the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof; profess to know God in words, but in works deny him;’ have a name to live, but yet are dead; but such are not these who are here compared to nuts. 8. Their being compared to nuts, may denote their preservation from the pollution of the world, though in the midst of them: as a nut, though it may fall into the mire and dirt, yet the inside is no ways defiled therewith; so R.

    Solomon Jarchi, out of the Midrashes explains these words of the impollution of the works of the Israelites, when they were in captivity among the nations of the world. 9. The kernel of the nut does not appear, until the shell be broke: the graces of God’s children generally show themselves most when they are under afflictions; for ‘tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope;’ that is, makes those graces to appear more in their lively exercise; even as spice smells most when beaten in a mortar: moreover, this rich treasure of divine grace, which is put into our ‘earthen vessels,’ will not be so clearly seen, until these vessels are broken in pieces; nor will the soul appear so beautiful and glorious, being clothed with Christ’s righteousness, and adorned with the graces of his Spirit, as when it is dislodged from ‘the earthly house of its tabernacle,’ and is joined with the ‘spirits of just men made perfect.’ 10. Some think, that not the common nuts, but the fruit, which we call nutmegs, are here intended; but such nuts grew not in those parts: rather, walnuts are meant, which the Arabs call gauz or geuz, which is the same word that is here used; as walnuts were in great esteem in the eastern countries, among the gardens Solomon had, Ecclesiastes 2:7, one might be appropriated to these; and at Etham, about two miles from Jerusalem, Solomon had gardens, into which he had used to go early in a morning, as Josephus relates: pistacia-nuts were well known in Syria, which joined to Judea, and which might have a part in this garden: nuts grew in Judea, of which Josephus makes mention, as in great plenty; and they are reckoned among the beat fruits of the land of Canaan, Genesis 43:11, and if nutmegs were designed, they might be expressive of the fragrancy and sweet odor of the saints, as they are clothed with Christ’s garments which ‘smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia;’ and as they are perfumed with ‘his ointments,’ which are exceeding savory. But, II. Let us consider the end of Christ’s going down into this garden of nuts; which is, 1st, ‘To see the fruits of the valley.’ By fruits, are meant the graces of the Spirit; the growth, actings and exercises of which, Christ went down to take notice of: and these are said to be the ‘fruits of the valley,’ because they grow upon humble souls, with whom Christ delights to be, and on whom he bestows more grace; though it is a wonderful instance of his grace and condescension to vouchsafe a regard to such poor, low, mean, and worthless creatures: see Isaiah 57:15 and <236601> 66:1,2. Some interpreters translate the words, ‘the shoots or fruits of the brook or river; agreeable enough to the Hebrew word, which signifies a torrent, as well as a valley; and so are expressive of the fertile soil in which believers are planted, and which is the occasion of their fruitfulness; see Psalm 1:3. 2dly, ‘To see whether the vine flourished.’ In what sense particular churches or believers in Christ may be compared to vines, has been shown on chapter 2:13, who may be said to flourish, when they increase in number, gifts and grace, and become fruitful in every good word and work, which Christ much looks after in his churches and in particular persons. 3dly , To see whether ‘the pomegranates budded.’ By pomegranates are meant believers; see chapter 4:13, and by their budding, the beginnings or first putting forth of grace in them; which Christ takes much notice of, and is highly well pleased with. And from all this may be observed, 1. The particular care and notice which Christ takes of his plants; he misses none, but goes from one to another; observes them all in what case they are, takes notice of the meanest, as well as the greatest; the fruits of the valley, as well as the vines and pomegranates. 2. That Christ is well pleased with the fruitfulness of them; he has been at a great deal of labor and expense to make them so; for this purpose he has made, planted, dunged and watered this garden: and now it must be some pleasure to him, to ‘see of the travail of his soul, and to have the pleasure of the Lord prosper in his hands;’ for as herein is his Father glorified, so herein is he well pleased, that his people ‘bring forth much fruit;’ see John 15:8; Colossians 1:10. 3. That he particularly takes notice of the first appearances and budding of grace in young converts; these he has a tender regard for, and takes a more than ordinary care of; see chapter 2:15, Isaiah 40:11 and 42:3. 4. That Christ has plants of various sorts and different growths in his garden; some vines, some pomegranates, and some nut-trees: all have gifts and grace differing one from another; some have ripe fruit upon them, others are blossoming, and some are but just budding forth. 5. Yet they are all fruit-bearing trees in Christ’s garden: there are none else mentioned here; and there are none in it, which are of his planting, but what are fruitful. Seeing then that Christ does so narrowly inspect the plants and trees in his garden, and expects fruit from every one of them; how much should we be concerned to be ‘filled with the fruits of righteousness!’ lest when he comes into his garden, and finds no fruit upon us, neither in the blossom nor in the bud, he should give orders to cut us down for cumber-ground; Luke 12:6,7.

    VERSE 12. Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib. THESE are either the words of the church, or else the words of Christ: if we consider them as the words of the church, then they may be expressive, either, 1st, Of that rapture which her soul was in, in the views of those heavenly joys which, some think, she had been taking notice of, and meditating upon in the former verse; which, whilst she was doing, ‘or ever she was aware,’ her soul took wing, and fled as swiftly in thought towards those happy regions, as ever the chariots of Amminadib ran: she seems to be in much such an ecstasy as the apostle Paul was, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, when he was ‘caught up into the third heaven, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter;’ who then knew not whether he was ‘in the body’ or ‘out of the body,’ and therefore in his account of it, leaves it as a thing only known to God; so she here says, ‘or ever I was aware,’ or, as it is in the Hebrew text ‘I knew not;’ that is, scarce where I was, or, whither I was going; or whither I was in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell; so sudden was the snatch, so surprising the rapture, that I cannot tell what better to compare it to, than the swift run of Amminadib’s chariots. Or, 2dly, Of her ignorance where Christ was, and yet her diligence in seeking of him; ‘I knew not, that is, where my beloved was: he departed from me, and was absent a considerable time, and I could hear no tidings of him; it is true, I had heard him say that he was come into his garden; but, alas! through my drowsiness and sleep I had entirely forgot it, until discoursing with the daughters of Jerusalem about him, it came fresh into my mind; but even then, when I knew not where he was, ‘my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib;’ I ran about here and there in search of him until I found him, as swiftly as ever his chariots did; see chapter 3:1,2 and 5:6-8,9.

    Or else, 3dly, Of that prodigious haste she made, as soon as ever she knew where he was; and it is as if she should say, As soon as ever I understood that my beloved was gone down into his garden, to take a view of the trees and plants which grow there sudden, as it were and of the fruits of it; immediately, on a at unawares, such was the strength of my love and affection to him, that I moved as swiftly after him as if I had been in one of the chariots of Amminadib. Or, 4thly, Of her courage and resolution in surmounting all difficulties for the sake of him: love makes persons bold and oaring; ‘perfect love,’ as the apostle says, 1 John 4:18, ‘casts out fear;’ and so it did in her; for she feared nothing that might befall her, and what did, did not discourage her; for though she was abused by the watchmen, and unveiled by the keepers of the walls, yet she drove on as briskly and as courageously as ever Amminadib drove on his chariots in the field of battle. Or, 5thly, They may be expressive of the modesty and humility of the church, in not thinking that such praises as those which had been given her, both by Christ and by the virgins in the preceding verses, belonged to her; ‘I knew not;’ I did not think, being conscious to myself of my own imperfections, that such commendations belonged to me; but finding that they did, nay soul made the greater haste to answer those characters, and to enjoy the company of him whom I dearly love; and therefore she takes her leave of the virgins, her companions, who had hitherto accompanied her in the search of her beloved, that she might be alone with him; which occasioned them to say, in the following words ‘Return, return, O Shulamite, return, return, that we may look upon thee.’ Though I rather think, that these are the words of Christ, as those in verse 11, also are; who, having gone down into his garden, to observe the fruitfulness of the trees and plants of it, declares in these words in what case he found them, or rather, in what he did not; ‘I knew not,’ or I did not perceive them to be in a fruitful and flourishing condition: and to this purpose Junius and Tremellius read the words, Nondum percipientem haec, ‘Not yet perceiving these things;’ that is, the vines to flourish, or the pomegranates to bud; therefore his soul put him upon using speedy methods to bring his garden, and the plants of it, into a more fruitful condition. From whence we may observe, 1. That sometimes there may be but little fruitfulness appearing in the churches of Christ: faith may be very low, as to its actings and exercise; the life and power of godliness may be much decayed; there may be but little warmth, zeal and activity for Christ, his gospel, cause and interest; the ministry of the word may meet with but small success; so that there may be no pomegranates budding, as well as no vines flourishing. But, 2. Christ will not always leave his churches in such a condition; but will make haste unto them, and bring them into a more fruitful state; he will come and revive his work upon the hearts of his people, and make them fruitful in every good word and work; he will bless the ministry of the word, not only for comfort and edification, so as his vines shall flourish, but also for conversion, so that the pomegranates shall bud forth. And, 3. It may be observed, that it is Christ’s presence that makes churches fruitful: as his absence causes a winter-season, both with churches and particular believers; so his presence is as the returning spring which renews the face of the earth, causes the flowers to appear above ground; the pomegranates to bud, and the vines to put forth their tender grapes; he is that ‘sun of righteousness,’ by whose warm and quickening beams of light and love, souls ‘ grow up as calves of the stall.’

    Moreover, these words may be expressive of that transport of love, with which Christ was filled towards his church, which caused him so speedily to return to her, as is here intimated; ‘or ever I was aware,’ that is, on a sudden, and in a surprising manner, my love and affection to my church broke eat and discovered itself; which powerfully moved and inclined me to make speedy haste unto her, and afford her all the assistance I could, as well as grant her my presence, which she was so desirous of: not that we are to suppose that any thing comes to Christ at unawares, or is done inadvertently by him; but this he says to show the strength of his love, and in what a sudden and surprising manner it brake forth towards his church and people. And in these words may be considered these three things:

    I. What it was that put him upon this speedy return to his church; ‘my soul made me,’ etc.

    II. In what manner this was effected, or what his soul made him to his church, in his return to her; it made him ‘like the chariots of Amminadib.’

    III. Whose chariots these are which Christ’s soul made him like unto, or set him upon; or rather, who the persons are to whom his soul made him as chariots. I. In these words we have an account of what it was that moved him to, or put him upon this speedy return to his church; which was not any worth or worthiness, love or loveliness in her; it was not her grace, nor the exercise of it, considered in themselves, but his own soul that moved him to it; that is, that love and affection which he bore in his own heart towards her; it was this that moved him first to undertake. her cause, assume her nature, and die in her room and stead; and it is this which causes him to manifest himself in a way of grace, and pay those love-visits to her, which he frequently does.

    II. The manner in which this was effected, or what his soul made him to his church and people, may he here also observed; it made him ‘like the chariots of Amminadib.’ 1. Like these chariots he moved swiftly to her: Christ is a ‘present help’ to his people in their time of need; he helps them, ‘and that right early;’ he makes haste, and delays not to afford them his assistance; for which reason he is said to be as ‘a roe or a young hart, leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills,’ in chapter 2:8,9. 2. He is like chariots to support, bear up and carry his people; he takes them up in his chariots of salvation, and carries them through all the troubles and difficulties of this life, safe to glory, as he himself declares he will, in Isaiah 46:3,4. 3. He is as chariots to them, to protect and defend them from their enemies: That which chariots and horses are to others, that is Christ to them, and much more so; whilst ‘some trust in chariots, and others in horses, they trust in the name of the Lord their God; who comes with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire,’ Isaiah 66:15. 4. It may denote the majesty and glory in which he visited her; which, as it was an instance of his condescension, so it was putting an honor upon her; that one so great as he, who is the King of kings, and Lord of lords, should visit one so poor and mean as she.

    III. It may also be considered whose chariots these are, which Christ’s soul made him like unto, or who the persons are to whom his soul made him as chariots. Some take Amminadib here to be the proper name of a person; who perhaps was one of Solomon’s chariot-drivers, and was famous in that way; was an artist in it, and who, Jehu-like, drove on swiftly, and furiously; and therefore Christ, speedily returning to his church, compares himself thereunto. Though I rather think, with R. Aben Ezra Jarchi, and others, that it should be considered as two words, thus, ammi, which signifies my people, and nadib, willing or princely; and so the words may be rendered, ‘the chariots of my willing or princely people. And this may be understood, either, 1st, Of angels, who are Christ’s willing people; who are always ready to do his pleasure, obey his orders, and execute his commands with the utmost cheerfulness and alacrity imaginable; see <19A320> Psalm 103:20,21, and therefore, one of the petitions in that prayer, which Christ directed his disciples to, is, that God’s will might ‘ be done on earth, as it is in heaven.’

    These are also the chariots of the Lord, as is manifest from Psalm 68:17. The chariots of the Lord are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: These are made use of by him in a providential way, to execute his will, and do his pleasure: see Zechariah 6:5, and so they are in a way of grace; they are made use of by him to carry messages of grace to his people; for they are ‘all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.’ These are his chariots, which he sends out to bring his children home; in these Elijah was conducted, body and soul, to glory; for the chariots and horses of fire, which carried him thither, were no other than angels, who appeared in such a form; by whom also Lazarus was carried into Abraham’s bosom; and perhaps Christ might here make use of the ministry of angels, and ride in these chariots in this discovery of himself to his church. Or else, 2dly, It may be meant of the ministers of Christ; who preach Christ and his gospel freely; ‘not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.’ These may be called the chariots of the Lord; as Elijah, in 2 Kings 2:12, is called the ‘chariot and horsemen of Israel:’ and they may be called so, because they bear the name of Christ, and carry and spread his gospel throughout the world, and are his chariots to bring home souls unto him, as the trophies of his grace; see Isaiah 66:20, and in which Christ frequently rides and shows himself unto his people. Though, 3dly, I should rather think, that the people of Christ themselves are here intended, whom Christ is as chariots to; for so I think the words may very well be rendered, ‘or ever I was aware, my soul made me as chariots to my willing or princely people;’ and so it points out the persons who shared in this instance of his grace: and these are said, in <19B003> Psalm 110:3, to be ‘a willing people in the day of his power;’ and they may be called so, 1. Because they are made willing to part with sin: This God requires, but man is naturally loth to do it; for sin is a sweet morsel in his mouth; ‘he hides it under his tongue, be spares and forsakes it not, but keeps it still within his mouth;’ but when the Spirit of God convinces him of the exceeding sinfulness of it rhea what was before sweet, is now bitter; and what was delightful is now odious; and what his soul adored, it now abhors, and says, as in Hosea 14:8 with Ephram, ‘What have I to do any more with idols?’ 2. Because they are made willing to part with sinful companions: This is what God calls his people to; but is a thing that is not so easily complied with, until by mighty grace they are made willing to it; for it is no other than a forsaking a man’s own people, and his father’s house; besides a great deal of reproach is cast upon them for so doing; for ‘he that departs from evil, maketh himself a prey;’ but when the spirit of God convinces the soul of the necessity of parting with such company, and the danger of continuing in it; it is not only willing to do it, but also laments that it has been so long in it, saying, as in <19C005> Psalm 120:5,6. ‘Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!’ 3. Because they are made willing to part with their own righteousness; not in point of obedience, but in point of dependence; not as ornamental to the Christian, but as constitutive of him; not as it glorifies God, but as it is made use of as a plea with him, either for grace here, or glory hereafter: again, not as it is a guard or fence against the reproaches of men, but as matter of boasting before God; not as it is agreeable to God’s law, but as it is opposite to God’s revealed method of justifying sinners by his Sonrighteousness: but this, man is not naturally willing to; it goes against him to part with it, because this is most agreeable to nature; it is his own offspring, the effect of great labor and toil, and what affords matter of boasting to him; but when the Spirit of God convinces him of the weakness and insufficiency of it, and shows him the glory and fullness of Christ’s righteousness; he then desires with the apostle Paul, Philippians 3:9, to be ‘found in him, not having on his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ.’ 4. Because they are willing to be saved alone by Christ: man is naturally for bringing his own works, either as the sole cause of, or as partners with Christ in salvation-work; but when souls are made to see the imperfection of these, and that salvation is only by Christ, and in no other, their language is, ‘Ashur shall not save us; we desire to be saved no other way than by Christ;’ and therefore they say, with Job, chapter 13:15,16, ‘though he slay us, yet will we trust in him; he also shall be our salvation.’ 5. Because they are as willing to serve Christ as they are to be saved by him; and this, not from fear of punishment, but from a principle of love the love of Christ constrains them to it; nor do they perform it in a servile mercenary way, but freely; not as a task, but as a pleasure: for to them wisdom’s ‘ways are ways of pleasantness, and her paths are paths of peace.’ 6. Because they are willing to bear the cross of Christ; this Christ requires of them, and this they readily and voluntarily submit unto: Christ’s cross is to them preferable to crowns and kingdoms: with Moses, Hebrews 11:25,26, they choose ‘rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.’ Now to such a free and willing people as these Christ makes himself as chariots.

    But again, the word may be rendered, ‘my princely people;’ and such are the people of Christ; see <19B307> Psalm 113:7,8, they are all princes, being the sons of a king; they are all heirs to a kingdom, have a crown of life, righteousness and glory laid up for them, and a throne of glory prepared for them to inherit; they wear princely robes, enjoy princely fare, and have a princely equipage; the angels of the Lord attend them continually as their life-guard. So the church is said to be a prince’s daughter, in chapter <220701> 7:1, and to her Christ here make himself as chariots, and takes her up along with him, that she might enjoy his delightful company, which she had so long sought after, and so much desired; which occasioned the daughters of Jerusalem, who had hitherto accompanied her in the search of him, to say, in the following words:

    VERSE 13.

    Return, return, O Shulamite, return, return, that we may look upon thee: What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.

    THESE words consist of two parts: I. A call, either of Christ or of the daughters of Jerusalem, to the church, to return, that they might have a full view of her.

    II. A reply to that call, which is made by proposing a question, and returning an answer to it.

    I. Here is a call, either of Christ or of the daughters, to the church, to return, that they might have a full view of her: in which may be considered, First, The name she is called by, or the title and appellation which is given to her, Shulamite.

    Secondly, What she is called upon to do; and that is, to return, which is repeated over and over.

    Thirdly, The end of it, which is, that they might ‘look upon her.’

    First, The name she bears, or the title and application which is given her, is, Shulamite; and she may be called so, for the following reasons: 1st, Because she was an inhabitant of Salem or Jerusalem: as the woman with whom Elisha lodged, is called a Shunamite from her dwelling in Shunem; so the church is here called a Shulamite or a Jerusalemite, from her dwelling in Salem or Jerusalem: Jerusalem was formerly called Salem; so it was in Melchizedek’s time, as is thought, who was king of that place; which ancient name of it is mentioned by the Psalmist, in Psalm 76:2, ‘in Salem also is his tabernacle.’ And now it is no wonder that the church, or any particular believer, should be called a Shulamite, seeing the church, both in the Old and New Testament, frequently bears the name of Jerusalem; so that to be a Shulamite, is to be a ‘fellow-citizen of the saints, and of the household of God,’ and to share in all the privileges and immunities thereof, as they do; who, besides the company of angels, and conversation of saints, enjoy the presence of Father, Son, and Spirit; and share in all the blessings of the everlasting covenant; for to the Shulamites, these natives of Zion, or inhabitants of Jerusalem, do these properly belong; see Isaiah 33:24; Zechariah 13:1. 2dly, Because she was the wife of the true Solomon, Christ Jesus. This is thought by some, to be the same with Solomon, having a feminine termination, which suits well with her: and as it is a common thing for the wife to have the same name with the husband; so it is no unusual thing for the church to be called by the same name as Christ is; Is he the Solomon? she’s the Shulamite: Is he Jehovah our righteousness? this is also the name wherewith she is called: See Jeremiah 22:6, compared with chapter 33:16, hence it is, that she shares in all the blessings he is possessed of, and in every thing he has a property in: for Christ being hers, all that he has is hers. 3dly, The word flora whence this is derived, signifies both perfection and peace; so that she may be called the Shulamite, from that perfection, and peace which she enjoys in and through Christ. 1. She may be called so from that perfection, which She is or shall be possessed of; ‘Return, return, O Shulamite;’ or, ‘O thou perfect one;’ who art an accomplished beauty, being the perfection of it; whose renown is gone forth among the heathen for it; for thy beauty is perfect, through the comeliness which the Lord hath put upon thee. Now the church may be said to be a Shulamite, a perfect one, these several ways: (1.) Not as she is in herself, but as she is in Christ; as she is in herself, she is black, but as she is in Christ, she is comely; as she is in herself, she is imperfect, but as she is in him, she is complete; as she is in herself, she is full of spots, but as she is in him, ‘she is all fair, and without spot.’ (2.) She is perfect: not as considered in her own righteousness, but as considered in Christ’s; as she is considered in her own, she is perfect, that being so; which she frankly acknowledges, saying, Isaiah 64:6, ‘we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;’ but as she is considered in Christ’s righteousness, she is perfect, being completely justified, acquitted., and discharged thereby from all sin; and so may be justly reckoned among the number ‘of the spirits of just men made perfect.’ (3.) She may be said to be perfect: not absolutely as in herself, but comparatively, with regard to others: so saints may be said to be perfect, when compared either with themselves before conversion, or with hypocrites and carnal professors, or with the profane men of the world: so Job, though he may be said to be ‘a perfect and an upright man ‘on the account of his having Christ’s righteousness upon him, and the truth of grace within him; yet he may also be said to be so, as being compared with the men of that generation in which he lived; and therefore the Lord says of him, ‘there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man.’ (4.) She may be said to be perfect, or, with a perfection of parts, but not of degrees; it is true, the believer has a complete sanctification in Christ, but not in himself: moreover, every part, power and faculty of the soul, may be sanctified, but not wholly, or to that degree as it shall be: the new creature is formed in all its parts, but it is not yet grown up to be ‘a perfect man in Christ;’ it is not adult, it is as yet in its nonage, in its infancy.’ (5.) She may be called the Shulamite, or ‘the perfect one,’ not as she is now, but as she shall be hereafter; for though saints ‘are now the sons of God, it does not vet appear what they shall be;’ they are now in some mea.sure like to Christ, but then they shall be perfectly like unto him; they have now spots upon them, but then they shall be without ‘spot or wrinkle, or any such thing;’ they will then. appear to be complete in Christ, and to be ‘ the fullness of him,’ as the church is called, in Ephesians 1:23, which then she may be said to be, when all the elect are called by grace, and not one member of the body is missing; and when all these members are filled with all the gifts and graces of the Spirit in their measure, and are all grown up to a just proportion in the body. 2. She may be called the Shulamite, from that peace which she does or shall enjoy in and through Christ. (1.) She may be called so from that peace which she has through Christ: who is her peace, and has made peace for her through the ‘blood of his cross,’ and thereby has reconciled her unto God; so that being now ‘justified by faith’ in his blood and righteousness, she has ‘ peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (2.) From that peace which she has from Christ; who gives unto her such a peace as the world can neither give nor take away: ‘Peace I leave with you,’ says Christ, John 14:27, ‘my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you;’ which is such an one as the believer can experience, even in the midst of the world’s frowns, troubles and persecutions: this is a peace which ‘passeth all understanding;’ and which is spoken only by the blood of Jesus, that ‘speaketh better things than that of Abel;’ and which the God of peace gives to men, by leading their faith to the person, blood and righteousness of Christ. (3.) From that peace which she does or should enjoy in her members: who ought to endeavor ‘to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace;’ which they will do, if ‘the peace of God rules in their hearts,’ as it should do; for hereunto are they called. (4.) From that peace which she is entitled to, and shall enjoy hereafter; for though this world is a world of trouble to the believer, yet he is no sooner out of it, but ‘he enters into peace;’ and into such an one as will never be interrupted and broke in upon, either by sin, Satan, or the world; for ‘mark but the upright and perfect man,’ the true Shulamite, ‘for the end of that man is peace.’ But, Secondly, Let us now consider what is said unto this Shulamite; and that is, ‘return, return:’ which, if we understand as the words of Christ, may be expressive, either, 1. Of the spiritual return of his church and people to him after sin and backslidings; which sense is favored by the Targum or Chaldee paraphrase upon this place; and also suits with the former state and condition of the church, who was fallen into a piteous frame of spirit, was sleepy and drowsy, negligent of her duty, and slighting Christ, for which reason he departed from her; but now returning himself, invites her to return also to him; which shows the exceeding greatness of his love unto her, and tenderness for her; and therefore to answer all objections, and remove all discouragements, he not only speaks to her in such loving and endearing language; but also repeats the call over and over, to shew how earnestly desirous he was of it, as well as the haste and speed he would have her make in it; see Jeremiah 3:1-12; Hosea 14:1-4. Or, 2. Of the conversion of the Jews: The name by which the church is here called, may more especially intend the Jewish church; and the words, ‘return, return,’ aptly represent the present state of the Jews, who are in a state of blindness, impenitence and unbelief; and have not only veils over their heads, but also over their hearts, when the law of Moses is read and expounded among them; they have their backs turned upon God, and their hearts set against the true Messiah, Christ Jesus: moreover, their conversion is expressed both in the Old and New Testament, by a turning or a returning unto the Lord; see Hosea 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:16; and the repetition of these words, ‘return, return,’ not only shows the power and haste in which this shall be accomplished; for then shall that prophecy be fulfilled, which is mentioned with so much wonder and surprise, in Isaiah 66:8. ‘Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things?

    Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once?’ but also their being repealed four times, may denote the collection of the Jews, at the time of their conversion, from the four corners of the earth; see Isaiah 11:12. I rather think, that these are the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, who, perceiving that the church was going away from them, call after her to return from them; they first meet with her in the time of her beloved’s absence from her, and had accompanied her in her search after him hitherto; but not having met with her beloved, who had made himself unto her as ‘the chariots of Amminadib,’ she takes her leave of them, and in all haste goes along with him; which they observing, car to her after this manner: or else, these daughters having observed how the church, through modesty and shamefacedness, ‘being conscious of her former treatment of Christ, hang down her head, and hid her face, as blushing and being ashamed to look up, being now in his presence; they call to her to turn, as some tender the word; that is, to turn her face, that they might behold the beauty and glory of it. Which leads us to consider, Thirdly, The end of this call, which is, that they might ‘look upon her:’ and if we take them to be the words of Christ, then the we are either the Trinity of Persons, Father, Son and Spirit; who are all well pleased with returning sinners, look upon them with delight and pleasure, and grant them communion and fellowship with them: or else, Christ and his angels, who, together with Christ, not only rejoice at the conversion of profane stoners, but also at the return of backsliding ones: or else, he and the daughters, :her companions; who, as well as he, were in love with her, and with wonder gazed at her. Though they seem rather to be the words of the daughters themselves; who here express their desire of seeing her, and therefore call to her to return unto them: they had heard very great commendations of the church’s beauty, in the preceding verses, which had excited desires more narrowly to look upon, and take a fuller view of her, than hitherto they had done: as also, that they might again enjoy her company and conversation, which had been so useful and instructive to them; and which, they might imagine, would be. more so, seeing she had so lately met with Christ, and had some fresh experiences of his love to her.

    So much for the first part of the words.

    II. Here is a reply made to this call of Christ, or of the virgins to the church, to return; which is done, 1st, By proposing a question, ‘What will ye see in the Shulamite?’ 2dly, By returning an answer to it, ‘as it were the company of two armies.’ 1st , A reply is made, by proposing this question, ‘What will ye see in the Shulamite?’ which is done either by Christ; who was best able to answer it; and this he does, not as being ignorant of what was to be seen in his church, nor with a design to lessen his church’s glory and excellency; but rather to heighten it, and to animate and excite the desires and affections of these virgins more strongly towards her: or else this question is put by the virgins, one to another; some of them wished for her return, and others asked what they would see, or what they expected to see in her. Though I rather think, it is put by the church herself; who, perceiving that the daughters were so very importunate with her to return to them, that they might look upon her; ask what they could expect to see in her, who was in herself and in her own opinion, such a poor, mean and unworthy creature; not fit to be looked upon, there being nothing in her that was extraordinary, or indeed valuable, or worth seeing; 2dly, An answer is returned unto this question, thus, ‘As it were the company of two armies;’ which is either given by Christ as an answer to his own, or to the daughters question, and that with a design to set forth the glory and majesty of the church: should it be asked, as if he should say, What is to be seen in my church? I answer, a great deal of glory; for though she is militant, yet she is ‘terrible as an army with banners;’ nay, there is as much stateliness and majesty to be Seen in her, as in two armies set in battle array; or else, they are the answer of the virgins, one to another, declaring what they expected to see in Christ’s spouse; and that is; either such a glorious and joyful meeting between Christ and his church, as is often, between great persons, which is frequently attended with singing and dancing; for the word translated company , signifies a company of those who dance and sing and therefore is rendered by the Septuagint, coroi , choirs; an instance of which spiritual joy, signified by such metaphors, see in Psalm 68:24,25, or as an army at the reception of their prince, for the sake of greater honor and majesty, divides itself into bands, or else, it was an angelic glory which they’ expected to see in her, or to see her face as the angel of the Lord; which would be as delightful and refreshing a sight unto them, as that was which Jacob had, when he had just parted with Laban, and was in danger from his brother Esau; who, Genesis 32:1,2, saw the angels of God as two bands, the one to go before, and the other behind him; and therefore he called the name of the place Mahanaim; which signifies two hosts or two armies, and is the same word that is here used; and to this history the allusion seems to be here made: or else, by this company of two armies, which these virgins expected to see, and were desirous of seeing in the church, may be meant, the union of Jews and Gentiles in one body; which will be effected in the latter day; and when it is, it wall be a glorious and delightful sight. Though I rather think, that both the question and the answer are the church’s; who first asks what they could expect to see in her; and then replies, that nothing could be seen in her, but as it were the company of two armies; that is, flesh and spirit, grace and. sin, which were continually warring against, and opposing each other; see Romans 7:23; Galatians 5:17, and this surely could be no pleasant or desirable sight, as she thought to them: but notwithstanding she had such a mean opinion of herself, yet very large and noble commendations are given of her in the following chapter, which fill up the greatest part of it; and thus it beams: CHAPTER 7.

    In this chapter Christ gives a fresh commendation of the beauty of his church, in a different order and method than before: beginning with her feet, and so rising gradually upwards to the hair of her head, and to the roof of her mouth, verses 1-9. And then the church asserts her interest in him; and declares his desire towards her, verse 10 and invites him to go with her into the fields, villages, and vineyards; and offers various reasons, by which she urges him to a compliance with her invitation, verses 1-3.

    VERSE 1.

    How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.

    THESE are either the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, who having desired the church to return unto them, in the latter part of the preceding chapter, that they might take a view of those incomparable and astonishing beauties, for which she had been commended; to which request, she complying, they now with wonder look upon her, and give those large commendations of her, which are in this and some following verses: and what seems still more to strengthen this sense of the words, Christ is spoken of in verse 5 as a distinct person, both from the person who is described, and also from the persons by whom the description is made.

    Though I rather think, that they are the words of Christ; who, observing his church think so meanly, and speak so modestly of herself, enters afresh upon the commendation of her beauties; to the end, that all her discouragements might be removed, her objections answered, and she be fully assured that she was as beautiful in his eyes, and as much the object of his love, as ever she was, notwithstanding her unkind treatment of him, and behavior to him. Moreover, it may be observed, that the title, which is given the church, in verse 6 does not suit well to come out of any other’s mouth but Christ’s, whose love peculiarly she is: nor indeed would it appear so proper to any as to Christ, to give such commendations of the church as here are given. And it is also worthy of our notice, that the order in which Christ proceeds here, in the description of the beauty of his church, is not only different from that method which she took in setting forth his glory, in chapter 5, but also from that which he himself took, when upon the same subject, in chapters 4:6, for as he there began with the hair of her head, her lips, teeth, cheeks, and temples, and so proceeded downwards; he here begins with her feet, and rises upwards: which may be, 1. To show that he takes notice of and has a value for the meanest members of his mystical body, the church; he takes notice of her feet, which, though they have the lowest place in the body, yet are not without their usefulness; ‘for the head cannot say to the feet, I have no need of you;’ and as they are not without their usefulness, so neither are they without Christ’s-notice; who has a real value, and has made provisions of grace for them, as well as for the other members of his body, and therefore appears in a garment down to the feet; which garment of his justifying righteousness, covers the feet and toes, as well as the other parts of the Body: nay, Christ not only takes notice of, and has a value for the meanest saints, but also for their meanest performances; he hears and despises not the prayers of his destitute ones: he bottles up their tears, and forgets not their labor of love towards his saints; such as visiting them when sick, feeding them when hungry, and clothing them then naked, nay, even the giving them a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple; all which he looks upon as done to himself, and will remember, and speak of them when they have forgotten, them, and at a time when they little thought to have heard of them. 2. It may be also to lead the church, together with the daughters of Jerusalem, gradually, by little and little, into the glory and beauty which she received from him; and so bring them to consider what glory and beauty he must be possessed of, from whom she received all hers; for if her feet with shoes were so beautiful, what must the other parts of her body be, which were still more gloriously adorned! and if she in all her parts was so glorious; what must he be who made her so! 3. He takes notice first of her feet, because she was now upon the return unto him after her backsliding from him, which was exceeding grateful to him: the returning prodigal was not more welcome to his father; who, seeing him afar off, ran and fell upon his neck, and kissed him; than a poor backsliding sinner is to Christ Jesus. 4. He inverts his former order and method, to show that the manifestations of his love are not always alike; he sometimes takes one way, and another and whether a believer is considered sometimes either one way or another, he is always beautiful in Christ, and in his eyes. But let us now consider the words themselves; in which may be observed, I. The noble and excellent title which is given her; ‘O prince’s daughter!’

    II. The commendations of her; which are, 1st , Of her feet, and these are said to be ‘beautiful with shoes.’ 2dly , Of the joints of her thighs;’ which are said to be ‘as jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.’

    I. Here is a new and noble title given to her, ‘O prince’s daughter!’ Christ finds new names and titles for his spouse; and that not only to set forth her excellency the more, but also to express the largeness of his love and affection to her; who may well be called a prince’s daughter, as she is the king’s daughter in Psalm 45:13, and that because she is the daughter of the King of kings, and Lord of lords: and so she is, 1. By covenant grace, which makes her so; for God has in covenant made over himself unto his people, and declared that he will be their Father, and they shall be his sons and daughters; for even thus saith the Lord Almighty: and now that same grace, which has taken them into that relation, will make it appear manifestly that they are so, by bestowing all that grace which is laid up in covenant for them, and all that glory which is there provided for them. 2. By birth, or by the grace of regeneration: the church of Christ is a prince’s daughter by birth, being born again, ‘not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God;’ the original and descent of the children of God is not base, mean and low, but high and noble: those that are born again) are born a]noqen from above, as that word may be rendered; they are born heirs to an inheritance, that is not of this world, which is fading and perishing, but to one that is incorruptible, undefiled, and which fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for them: and as they are born, so they are brought up as the sons and daughters of kings and princes; they are brought up in the king’s palace; they feed at his table, and participate of all his royal dainties; their clothing shows them to be such, which is all of wrought gold; as does also their equipage and retinue: who, besides the virgins or maids of honor to wait upon them, have also a guard of angels continually to attend them. 3. By adopting grace: angels are the sons of God by creation; but saints by adoption: they are predestinated to it; and by the Spirit of God, who is the spirit of adoption, are put into the possession of it, and reap the benefits, and enjoy the comfort of it, through his witnessing with their spirits, that they are the children of God; which is such a surprising instance of God’s grace, that all who share in this privilege have reason to say, with the apostle John, 1 John 3:1, ‘Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.’ 4. By marriage: The church is married to Christ, the eternal Son of God; whose titles are, ‘The Prince of peace, and the Prince of the kings of the earth:’ so that she is both a prince’s daughter, and a prince’s wife; and is the former, by becoming the latter; she is espoused as a chaste virgin to Christ, who is the only Son of the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God.

    Moreover, the words may be rendered, ‘O noble, or princely daughter!’ f270 that is, who art of a noble and princely spirit: and this is, (1.) A free spirit, in opposition to a servile one: and so the word is translated, in Psalm 51:12. ‘Uphold me with a free or princely spirit:’ and such a spirit believers have, being freed from the servitude of sin and Satan; and being delivered from a spirit of bondage to a law of works, serve the Lord with all cheerfulness and readiness, being made a willing people in the day of his power. (2.) To be of a princely spirit, is to be of a free, noble, generous, bountiful and liberal spirit; and such a spirit saints have, not only in distributing their temporal things to the necessities of the poor, but also in communicating their spiritual things to the mutual comfort and edification of each other; so the word is rendered in Isaiah 32:5,8, II. Having considered the title, it will be now proper to take notice of the commendations given her: 1st, Of her feet, which are said to be beautiful with shoes. 2dly, Of the joints of her thighs, which are said to be ‘as jewels, the