In this chapter, after the title of the book (v. 1), we have
Christ and his church, Christ and a believer, expressing their esteem for each
other. I. The bride, the church, speaks to the bridegroom (v. 2-4), to the
daughters of Jerusalem (v. 5, 6), and then to the bridegroom (v. 7). II. Christ,
the bridegroom, speaks in answer to the complaints and requests of his spouse
(v. 8-11). III. The church expresses the great value she has for Christ, and
the delights she takes in communion with him (v. 12-14). IV. Christ commends
the church's beauty (v. 15). V. The church returns the commendation (v. 16,
17). Where there is a fire of true love to Christ in the heart this will be of
use to blow it up into a flame.
We have here the title of this book, showing, 1. The nature of
it; it is a song, that it might the better answer the intention, which is
to stir up the affections and to heat them, which poetry will be very
instrumental to do. The subject is pleasing, and therefore fit to be treated of
in a song, in singing which we may make melody with our hearts unto the Lord.
It is evangelical; and gospel-times should be times of joy, for gospel-grace
puts a new song into our mouths, Ps. 98:1. 2. The dignity of it; it is the
song of songs, a most excellent song, not only above any human composition,
or above all other songs which Solomon penned, but even above any other of the
scripture-songs, as having more of Christ in it. 3. The penman of it; it is
Solomon's. It is not the song of fools, as many of the songs of love are, but
the song of the wisest of men; nor can any man give a better proof of his wisdom
than to celebrate the love of God to mankind and to excite his own love to God
and that of others with it. Solomon's songs were a thousand and five (1 Ki.
4:32); those that were of other subjects are lost, but this of seraphic love
remains, and will to the end of time. Solomon, like his father, was addicted to
poetry, and, which way soever a man's genius lies, he should endeavor to
honour God and edify the church with it. One of Solomon's names was Jedidiah
of the Lord (2 Sa. 12:25); and none so fit to write of the Lord's love as
he that had himself so great an interest in it; none of all the apostles wrote
so much of love as he that was himself the beloved disciple and lay in Christ's
bosom. Solomon, as a king, had great affairs to mind and manage, which took up
much of his thoughts and time, yet he found heart and leisure for this and other
religious exercises. Men of business ought to be devout men, and not to think
that business will excuse them from that which is every man's great business
keep up communion with God. It is not certain when Solomon penned this sacred
song. Some think that he penned it after he recovered himself by the grace of
God from his backslidings, as a further proof of his repentance, and as if by
doing good to many with this song he would atone for the hurt he had perhaps
done with loose, vain, amorous songs, when he loved many strange wives;
now he turned his wit the right way. It is more probable that he penned it in
the beginning of his time, while he kept close to God and kept up his communion
with him; and perhaps he put this song, with his father's psalms, into the
hands of the chief musician, for the service of the temple, not without a key to
it, for the right understanding of it. Some think that it was penned upon
occasion of his marriage with Pharaoh's daughter, but that is uncertain; the
tower of Lebanon, which is mentioned in this book (ch. 7:4), was not built, as
is supposed, till long after the marriage. We may reasonably think that when in
the height of his prosperity he loved the Lord (1 Ki. 3:3) he thus served
him with joyfulness and gladness of heart in the abundance of all things. It
may be rendered, The song of songs, which is concerning Solomon, who as
the son and successor of David, on whom the covenant of royalty was entailed, as
the founder of the temple, and as one that excelled in wisdom and wealth, was a
type of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,
and yet is a greater than Solomon; this is therefore a song concerning him. It
is here fitly placed after Ecclesiastes; for when by the book we are
thoroughly convinced of the vanity of the creature, and its insufficiency to
satisfy us and make a happiness for us, we shall be quickened to seek for
happiness in the love of Christ, and that true transcendent pleasure which is to
be found only in communion with God through him. The voice in the wilderness,
that was to prepare Christ's way, cried, All flesh is grass.
The spouse, in this dramatic poem, is here first introduced
addressing herself to the bridegroom and then to the daughters of Jerusalem.
I. To the bridegroom, not giving him any name or title, but
beginning abruptly: Let him kiss me; like Mary Magdalen to the supposed
gardener (Jn. 20:15), If thou have borne him hence, meaning Christ, but
not naming him. The heart has been before taken up with the thoughts of him, and
to this relative those thoughts were the antecedent, that good matter which the
heart was inditing, Ps. 45:1. Those that are full of Christ themselves are ready
to think that others should be so too. Two things the spouse desires, and
pleases herself with the thoughts of:
1. The bridegroom's friendship (v. 2): "Let him kiss
me with the kisses of his mouth, that is, be reconciled to me, and let me
know that he is so; let me have the token of his favour."
Old-Testament church desired Christ's manifesting himself in the flesh, to be
no longer under the law as a schoolmaster, under a dispensation of bondage and
terror, but to receive the communications of divine grace in the gospel, in
which God is reconciling the world unto himself, binding up and healing what by
the law was torn and smitten; as the mother kisses the child that she has
chidden. "Let him no longer send to me, but come himself, no longer speak
by angels and prophets, but let me have the word of his own mouth, those gracious
words (Lu. 4:22), which will be to me as the kisses of the mouth,
sure tokens of reconciliation, as Esau's kissing Jacob was."
duty is summed up in our kissing the Son (Ps. 2:12); so all gospel-grace is
summed up in his kissing us, as the father of the prodigal kissed him when he
returned a penitent. It is a kiss of peace. Kisses are opposed to wounds (Prov.
27:6), so are the kisses of grace to the wounds of the law. Thus all true
believers earnestly desire the manifestations of Christ's love to their souls;
they desire no more to make them happy than the assurance of his favour, the
lifting up of the light of his countenance upon them (Ps. 4:6, 7), and the
knowledge of that love of his which surpasses knowledge; this is the one thing
they desire, Ps. 27:4. They are ready to welcome the manifestation of Christ's
love to their souls by his Spirit, and to return them in the humble professions
of love to him and complacency in him, above all. The fruit of his lips is
peace, Isa. 57:19. "Let him give me ten thousand kisses whose very
fruition makes me desire him more, and, whereas all other pleasures sour and
wither by using, those of the Spirit become more delightful."
Reynolds. She gives several reasons for this desire. (1.) Because of the great
esteem she has for his love: Thy love is better than wine. Wine makes
glad the heart, revives the drooping spirits, and exhilarates them, but
gracious souls take more pleasure in loving Christ and being beloved of him, in
the fruits and gifts of his love and in the pledges and assurances of it, than
any man ever took in the most exquisite delights of sense, and it is more
reviving to them than ever the richest cordial was to one ready to faint. Note,
[1.] Christ's love is in itself, and in the account of all the saints, more
valuable and desirable than the best entertainments this world can give. [2.]
Those only may expect the kisses of Christ's mouth, and the comfortable tokens
of his favour, who prefer his love before all delights of the children of men,
who would rather forego those delights than forfeit his favour, and take more
pleasure in spiritual joys than in any bodily refreshments whatsoever. Observe
here the change of the person: Let him kiss me; there she speaks of him
as absent, or as if she were afraid to speak to him; but, in the next words, she
sees him near at hand, and therefore directs her speech to him: "Thy
love, thy loves"
(so the word is), "I so earnestly desire, because
I highly esteem it."
(2.) Because of the diffuse fragrancy of his love and
the fruits of it (v. 3): "Because of the savour of thy good ointment
(the agreeableness and acceptableness of thy graces and comforts to all that
rightly understand both them and themselves), thy name is as ointment poured
forth, thou art so, and all that whereby thou hast made thyself known; thy
very name is precious to all the saints; it is an ointment and perfume which
rejoice the heart."
The unfolding of Christ's name is as the opening of a
box of precious ointment, which the room is filled with the odour of. The
preaching of his gospel was the manifesting the savour of his knowledge in
every place, 2 Co. 2:14. The Spirit was the oil of gladness wherewith
Christ was anointed (Heb. 1:9), and all true believers have that unction
(1 Jn. 2:27), so that he is precious to them, and they to him and to one
another. A good name is as precious ointment, but Christ's name
is more fragrant than any other. Wisdom, like oil, makes the face to shine;
but the Redeemer outshines, in beauty, all others. The name of Christ is not now
like ointment sealed up, as it had been long (Ask not after my name, for it
is secret), but like ointment poured forth, which denotes both the
freeness and fulness of the communications of his grace by the gospel. (3.)
Because of the general affection that all holy souls have to him: Therefore
do the virgins love thee. It is Christ's love shed abroad in our hearts
that draws them out in love to him; all that are pure from the corruptions of
sin, that preserve the chastity of their own spirits, and are true to the vows
by which they have devoted themselves to God, that not only suffer not their
affections to be violated but cannot bear so much as to be solicited by the
world and the flesh, those are the virgins that love Jesus Christ and follow
him whithersoever he goes, Rev. 14:4. And, because Christ is the darling of
all the pure in heart, let him be ours, and let our desires be towards
him and towards the kisses of his mouth.
2. The bridegroom's fellowship, v. 4. Observe here,
(1.) Her petition for divine grace: Draw me. This implies
sense of distance from him, desire of union with him. "Draw me to thyself,
draw me nearer, draw me home to thee."
She had prayed that he would draw
nigh to her (v. 2); in order to that, she prays that he would draw her nigh to
him. "Draw me, not only with the moral suasion which there is in the
fragrancy of the good ointments, not only with the attractives of that name
which is as ointment poured forth, but with supernatural grace, with the cords
of a man and the bands of love,"
Hos. 11:4. Christ has told us
that none come to him but such as the Father draws, Jn. 6:44. We are not only
weak, and cannot come of ourselves any further than we are helped, but we are
naturally backward and averse to come, and therefore must pray for those
influences and operations of the Spirit, by the power of which we are unwilling
made willing, Ps. 110:3. "Draw me, else I move not; overpower the
world and the flesh that would draw me from thee."
We are not driven to
Christ, but drawn in such a way as is agreeable to rational creatures.
(2.) Her promise to improve that grace: Draw me, and then
we will run after thee. See how the doctrine of special and effectual
grace consists with our duty, and is a powerful engagement and encouragement to
it, and yet reserves all the glory of all the good that is in us to God only.
Observe, [1.] The flowing forth of the soul after Christ, and its ready
compliance with him, are the effect of his grace; we could not run after him if
he did not draw us, 2 Co. 3:5; Phil. 4:13. [2.] The grace which God gives us we
must diligently improve. When Christ by his Spirit draws us we must with our
spirits run after him. As God says, I will, and you shall (Eze.
36:27), so we must say, "Thou shalt and we will; thou shalt work
in us both to will and to do, and therefore we will work out our own
(Phil. 2:12, 13); not only we will walk, but we will run after
thee, which denotes eagerness of desire, readiness of affection, vigour of
pursuit, and swiftness of motion. When thou shalt enlarge my heart then I
will run the way of thy commandments (Ps. 119:32); when thy right hand
upholds me then my soul follows hard after thee (Ps. 63:8); when with
lovingkindness to us he draws us (Jer. 31:3) we with lovingkindness to him must
run after him, Isa. 40:31. Observe the difference between the petition and the
promise: "Draw me, and then we will run."
When Christ pours out his
Spirit upon the church in general, which is his bride, all the members of it do
thence receive enlivening quickening influences, and are made to run to him with
the more cheerfulness, Isa. 55:5. Or, "Draw me"
(says the believing
soul) "and then I will not only follow thee myself as fast as I can, but
will bring all mine along with me: We will run after thee, I and the virgins
that love thee (v. 3), I and all that I have any interest in or influence
upon, I and my house (Jos. 24:15), I and the transgressors whom I will
teach thy ways,"
Ps. 51:13. Those that put themselves forth, in
compliance with divine grace, shall find that their zeal will provoke many,
2 Co. 9:2. Those that are lively will be active; when Philip was drawn to Christ
he drew Nathanael; and they will be exemplary, and so will win those that would
not be won by the word.
(3.) The immediate answer that was given to this prayer: The
King has drawn me, has brought me into his chambers. It is not so
much an answer fetched by faith from the world of Christ's grace as an answer
fetched by experience from the workings of his grace. If we observe, as we
ought, the returns of prayer, we may find that sometimes, while we are yet
speaking, Christ hears, Isa. 65:24. The bridegroom is a king; so much the
more wonderful is his condescension in the invitations and entertainments that
he gives us, and so much the greater reason have we to accept of them and to run
after him. God is the King that has made the marriage-supper for his
Son (Mt. 22:2) and brings in even the poor and the maimed, and even the
most shy and bashful are compelled to come in. Those that are drawn to
Christ are brought, not only into his courts, into his palaces (Ps. 45:15), but
into his presence-chamber, where his secret is with them (Jn. 14:21), and where
they are safe in his pavilion, Ps. 27:5; Isa. 26:20. Those that wait at
wisdom's gates shall be made to come (so the word is) into her
chambers; they shall be led into truth and comfort.
(4.) The wonderful complacency which the spouse takes in the
honour which the king put upon her. Being brought into the chamber, [1.]
"We have what we would have. Our desires are crowned with unspeakable
delights; all our griefs vanish, and we will be glad and rejoice. If a
day in the courts, much more an hour in the chambers, is better than a
thousand, than ten thousand, elsewhere."
Those that are, through grace,
brought into covenant and communion with God, have reason to go on their way
rejoicing, as the eunuch (Acts 8:39), and that joy will enlarge our hearts
and be our strength, Neh. 8:10. [2.] All our joy shall centre in God: "We
will rejoice, not in the ointments, or the chambers, but in thee. It
is God only that is our exceeding joy, Ps. 43:4. We have no joy but in
Christ, and which we are indebted to him for."
Gaudium in Domino
in the Lord, was the ancient salutation, and Salus in Domino sempiterna
salvation in the Lord. [3.] "We will retain the relish and savour of
this kindness of thine and never forget it: We will remember thy loves more
than wine; no only thy love itself (v. 2), but the very remembrance of it
shall be more grateful to us than the strongest cordial to the spirits, or the
most palatable liquor to the taste. We will remember to give thanks for thy
love, and it shall make more durable impressions upon us than any thing in this
(5.) The communion which a gracious soul has with all the saints
in this communion with Christ. In the chambers to which we are brought we not
only meet with him, but meet with one another (1 Jn. 1:7); for the upright
love thee; the congregation, the generation, of the upright love thee.
Whatever others do, all that are Israelites indeed, and faithful to God, will
love Jesus Christ. Whatever differences of apprehension and affection there may
be among Christians in other things, this they are all agreed in, Jesus Christ
is precious to them. The upright here are the same with the virgins,
v. 3. All that remember his love more than wine will love him with a
superlative love. Nor is any love acceptable to Christ but the love of the
upright, love in sincerity, Eph. 6:24.
II. To the daughters of Jerusalem, v. 5, 6. The church in
general, being in distress, speaks to particular churches to guard them against
the danger they were in of being offended at the church's sufferings, 1 Th.
3:3. Or the believer speaks to those that were professors at large in the
church, but not of it, or to weak Christians, babes in Christ, that labour under
much ignorance, infirmity, and mistake, not perfectly instructed, and yet
willing to be taught in the things of God. She observed these by-standers look
disdainfully upon her because of her blackness, in respect both of sins and
sufferings, upon the account of which they though she had little reason to
expect the kisses she wished for (v. 2) or to expect that they should join with
her in her joys, v. 4. She therefore endeavors to remove this offence; she owns
she is black. Guilt blackens; the heresies, scandals, and offences, that
happen in the church, make her black; and the best saints have their
failings. Sorrow blackens; that seems to be especially meant; the church is
often in a low condition, mean, and poor, and in appearance despicable, her
beauty sullied and her face foul with weeping; she is in mourning weeds, clothed
with sackcloth, as the Nazarites that had become blacker than a coal,
Lam. 4:8. Now, to take off this offence,
1. She asserts her own comeliness notwithstanding (v. 5): I
am black, but comely, black as the tents of Kedar, in which the
shepherds lived, which were very coarse, and never whitened, weather-beaten and
discoloured by long use, but comely as the curtains of Solomon, the
furniture of whose rooms, no doubt, was sumptuous and rich, in proportion to the
stateliness of his houses. The church is sometimes black with
persecution, but comely in patience, constancy, and consolation, and
never the less amiable in the eyes of Christ, black in the account of men,
but comely in God's esteem, black in some that are a scandal to
her, but comely in others that are sincere and are an honour to her. True
believers are black in themselves, but comely in Christ, with the
comeliness that he puts upon them, black outwardly, for the world
knows them not, but all glorious within, Ps. 45:13. St. Paul was weak,
and yet strong, 2 Co. 12:10. And so the church is black and yet comely;
a believer is a sinner and yet a saint; his own righteousnesses are as filthy
rags, but he is clothed with the robe of Christ's righteousness. The
Chaldee Paraphrase applies it to the people of Israel's blackness when they
made the golden calf and their comeliness when they repented of it.
2. She gives an account how she came to be so black. The
blackness was not natural, but contracted, and was owing to the hard usage that
had been given her: Look not upon me so scornfully because I am black.
We must take heed with what eye we look upon the church, especially when she is
in black. Thou shouldst not have looked upon the day of thy brother, the
day of his affliction, Obad. 12. Be not offended; for,
(1.) I am black by reason of my sufferings: The sun
has looked upon me. She was fair and comely; whiteness was her proper colour;
but she got this blackness by the burden and heat of the day, which she
was forced to bear. She was sun-burnt, scorched with tribulation and persecution
(Mt. 13:6, 21); and the greatest beauties, if exposed to the weather, are
soonest tanned. Observe how she mitigates her troubles; she does not say, as
Jacob (Gen. 31:40), In the day the drought consumed me, but, The sun
has looked upon me; for it becomes not God's suffering people to make the
worst of their sufferings. But what was the matter? [1.] She fell under the
displeasure of those of her own house: My mother's children were angry with
me. She was in perils by false brethren; her foes were those of
her own house (Mt. 10:36), brethren by nature as men, by profession as
members of the same sacred corporation, the children of the church her mother,
but not of God her Father; they were angry with her. The Samaritans, who
claimed kindred to the Jews, were vexed at any thing that tended to the
prosperity of Jerusalem, Neh. 2:10. Note, It is no new thing for the people of
God to fall under the anger of their own mother's children. It was thou, a
man, my equal, Ps. 55:12, 13. This makes the trouble the more irksome and
grievous; from such it is taken unkindly, and the anger of such is implacable. A
brother offended is hard to be won. [2.] They dealt very hardly with her: They
made me the keeper of the vineyards, that is, First, "They
seduced me to sin, drew me into false worships, to serve their gods, which was
like dressing the vineyards, keeping the vine of Sodom; and they would
not let me keep my own vineyard, serve my own God, and observe those pure
worships which he gave me in charge, and which I do and ever will own for mine."
These are grievances which good people complain most of in a time of
persecution, that their consciences are forced, and that those who rule them
with rigour say to their souls, Bow down, that we may go over, Isa.
51:23. Or, Secondly, "They brought me into trouble, imposed that
upon me which was toilsome, and burdensome, and very disgraceful."
the vineyards was base servile work, and very laborious, Isa. 61:5. Her mother's
children made her the drudge of the family. Cursed be their anger, for it was
fierce, and their wrath, for it was cruel. The spouse of Christ has met with
a great deal of hard usage.
(2.) "My sufferings are such as I have deserved; for my
own vineyard have I not kept. How unrighteous soever my brethren are in
persecuting me, God is righteous in permitting them to do so. I am justly made a
slavish keeper of men's vineyards, because I have been a careless keeper of
the vineyards God has entrusted me with."
Slothful servants of God are
justly made to serve their enemies, that they may know his service, and the
service of the kings of the countries, 2 Chr. 12:8; Deu. 28:47, 48; Eze.
20:23, 24. "Think not the worse of the ways of God for my sufferings, for I
smart for my own folly."
Note, When God's people are oppressed and
persecuted it becomes them to acknowledge their own sin to be the procuring
cause of their troubles, especially their carelessness in keeping their
vineyards, so that it has been like the field of the slothful.
Here is, I. The humble petition which the spouse presents to her
beloved, the shepherdess to the shepherd, the church and every believer to
Christ, for a more free and intimate communion with him. She turns from the daughters
of Jerusalem, to whom she had complained both of her sins and of her
troubles, and looks up to heaven for relief and succour against both, v. 7. Here
observe, 1. The title she gives to Christ: O thou whom my soul loveth.
Note, It is the undoubted character of all true believers that their souls love
Jesus Christ, which intimates both the sincerity and the strength of their love;
they love him with all their hearts; and those that do so may come to him
boldly and may humbly plead it with him. 2. The opinion she has of him as the
good shepherd of the sheep; she doubts not but he feeds his flock and makes
them rest at noon. Jesus Christ graciously provides both repast and repose
for his sheep; they are not starved, but well fed, not scattered upon the
mountains, but fed together, fed in green pastures and in the hot time of
the day led by the still waters and made to lie down under a cool
refreshing shade. Is it with God's people a noon-time of outward troubles,
inward conflicts? Christ has rest for them; he carries them in his arms,
Isa. 40:11. 3. Her request to him that she might be admitted into his society: Tell
me where thou feedest. Those that would be told, that would be taught, what
they are concerned to know and do, must apply to Jesus Christ, and beg of him to
teach them, to tell them. "Tell me where to find thee, where I may have
conversation with thee, where thou feedest and tendest thy flock, that
there I may have some of my company."
Observe, by the way, We should not,
in love to our friends and their company, tempt them or urge them to neglect
their business, but desire such an enjoyment of them as will consist with it,
and rather, if we can, to join with them in their business and help to forward
it. "Tell me where thou feedest, and there I will sit with thee,
walk with thee, feed my flocks with thine, and not hinder thee nor myself, but
bring my work with me."
Note, Those whose souls love Jesus Christ earnestly
desire to have communion with him, by his word in which he speaks to us and by
prayer in which we speak to him, and to share in the privileges of his flock;
and we may learn from the care he takes of his church, to provide convenient
food and rest for it, how to take care of our own souls, which are our charge.
4. The plea she uses for the enforcing of this request: "For why should
I be as one that turns aside by (or after) the flocks of thy companions,
that pretend to be so, but are really thy competitors, and rivals with thee."
Note, Turning aside from Christ after other lovers is that which gracious souls
dread, and deprecate, more than any thing else. "Thou wouldst not have me
to turn aside, no, nor to be as one that turns aside; tell me
then, O tell me, where I may be near thee, and I will never leave thee."
(1.) "Why should I lie under suspicion, and look as if I belonged to
some other and not to thee? Why should I be thought by the flocks of
our companions to be a deserter from thee, and a retainer to some other
Good Christians will be afraid of giving any occasion to those
about them to question their faith in Christ and their love to him; they would
not do any thing that looks like unconcernedness about their souls; or
uncharitableness towards their brethren, or that savours of indifference and
disaffection to holy ordinances; and we should pray to God to direct us into and
keep us in the way of our duty, that we may not so much as seem to come
short, Heb. 4:1. (2.) "Why should I lie in temptation to turn
aside, as I do while I am absent from thee?"
We should be earnest with
God for a settled peace in communion with God through Christ, that we may not be
as waifs and strays, ready to be picked up by him that next passes by.
II. The gracious answer which the bridegroom gives to this
request, v. 8. See how ready God is to answer prayer, especially prayers for
instruction; even while she is yet speaking, he hears. Observe, 1. How
affectionately he speaks to her: O thou fairest among women! Note,
Believing souls are fair, in the eyes of the Lord Jesus, above any other. Christ
sees a beauty in holiness, whether we do or no. The spouse has called herself
black, but Christ calls her fair. Those that are low in their own eyes are so
much the more amiable in the eyes of Jesus Christ. Blushing at their own
deformity (says Mr. Durham) is a chief part of their beauty. 2. How mildly he
checks her for her ignorance, in these words, If thou know not,
intimating that she might have known it if it had not been her own fault. What!
dost thou not know where to find me and my flock? Compare Christ's answer to a
like address of Philip's (Jn. 14:9), Have I been so long time with you, and
yet hast thou not known me, Philip? But, 3. With what tenderness he
acquaints her where she might find him. If men say, Lo, here is Christ, or,
Lo, he is there, believe them not, go not after them, Mt. 24:23, 26. But,
(1.) Walk in the way of good men (Prov. 2:20), follow the track, ask for
the good old way, observe the footsteps of the flock, and go forth by
them. It will not serve to sit still and cry, "Lord, show me the way,"
but we must bestir ourselves to enquire out the way; and we may find it by
looking which way the footsteps of the flock lead, what has been the
practice of godly people all along; let that practice be ours, Heb. 6:12; 1 Co.
11:1. (2.) Sit under the direction of good ministers: "Feed thyself and
thy kids besides the tents of the under-shepherds. Bring thy charge with
(it is probable that the custom was to commit the lambs and kids to
the custody of the women, the shepherdesses); "they shall all be welcome; the
shepherds will be no hindrance to thee, as they were to Reuel's daughters
(Ex. 2:17), but helpers rather, and therefore abide by their tents."
Those that would have acquaintance and communion with Christ must closely and
conscientiously adhere to holy ordinances, must join themselves to his people
and attend his ministers. Those that have the charge of families must bring them
with them to religious assemblies; let their kids, their children, their
servants, have the benefit of the shepherds' tents.
III. The high encomiums which the bridegroom gives of his
spouse. To be given in marriage, in the Hebrew dialect, is to be praised
(Ps. 78:63, margin), so this spouse is here; her husband praises this virtuous
woman (Prov. 31:28); he praises her, as is usual in poems, by similitudes.
1. He calls her his love (v. 9); it is an endearing compellation often
used in this book: "My friend, my companion, my familiar."
compares her to a set of strong and stately horses in Pharaoh's chariots.
Egypt was famous for the best horses. Solomon had his thence; and Pharaoh, no
doubt, had the choicest the country afforded for his own chariots. The church
had complained of her own weakness, and the danger she was in of being made a
prey of by her enemies: "Fear not,"
says Christ; "I have made
thee like a company of horses; I have put strength into thee as I have done
into the horse (Job 39:19), so that thou shalt with a gracious boldness mock
at fear, and not be affrighted, like the lion, Prov. 28:1. The
Lord has made thee as his goodly horse in the day of battle, Zec. 10:3. I
have compared thee to my company of horses which triumphed over Pharaoh's
chariots, the holy angels, horses of fire."
Hab. 3:15, Thou
didst walk through the sea with thy horses; and see Isa. 63:13. We are weak
in ourselves, but if Christ make us as horses, strong and bold, we need not fear
what all the powers of darkness can do against us. 3. He admires the beauty and
ornaments of her countenance (v. 10): Thy cheeks are comely with rows of
jewels, the attire of the head, curls of hair, or favourites (so some), or
knots of ribbons; thy neck also with chains, such as persons of the first
rank wear, chains of gold. The ordinances of Christ are the ornaments of
the church. The graces, gifts, and comforts of the Spirit, are the adorning of
every believing soul, and beautify it; these render it, in the sight of God,
of great price. The ornaments of the saints are many, but all orderly
disposed in rows and chains, in which there is a mutual connexion
with and dependence upon each other. The beauty is not from any thing in
themselves, from the neck or from the cheeks, but from ornaments
with which they are set off. It was comeliness which I put upon thee, said
the Lord God; for we were born not only naked, but polluted, Eze. 16:14.
IV. His gracious purpose to add to her ornaments; for where God
has given true grace he will give more grace; to him that has shall be given.
Is the church courageous in her resistance of sin, as the horses in Pharaoh's
chariots? Is she comely in the exercise of grace, as with rows of
jewels and chains of gold? She shall be yet further beautified (v.
11): We will make thee borders of gold, inlaid, or enamelled, with
studs of silver. Whatever is wanting shall be made up, till the church and
every true believer come to be perfect in beauty; see Eze. 16:14. This is
here undertaken to be done by the concurring power of the three persons in the
Godhead: We will do it; like that (Gen. 1:26), "Let us make man;
so let us new-make him, and perfect his beauty."
The same that is the
author will be the finisher of the good work; and it cannot miscarry.
Here the conference is carried on between Christ and his spouse,
and endearments are mutually exchanged.
I. Believers take a great complacency in Christ, and in
communion with him. To you that believe he is precious, above any thing
in this world, 1 Pt. 2:7. Observe,
1. The humble reverence believers have for Christ as their
Sovereign, v. 12. He is a King in respect both of dignity and dominion;
he wears the crown of honour, he bears the sceptre of power, both which are the
unspeakable satisfaction of all his people. This King has his royal table spread
in the gospel, in which is made for all nations a feast of fat things,
Isa. 25:6. Wisdom has furnished her table, Prov. 9:1. He sits at this
table to see his guests (Mt. 22:11), to see that nothing be wanting
that is fit for them; he sups with them and they with him (Rev.
3:20); he has fellowship with them and rejoices in them; he sits at his table
to bid them welcome, and to carve for them, as Christ broke the five loaves
and gave to his disciples, that they might distribute to the multitude. He sits
there to receive petitions, as Ahasuerus admitted Esther's petition at the
banquet of wine. He has promised to be present with his people in his
ordinances always. Then believers do him all the honour they can, and study how
to express their esteem of him and gratitude to him, as Mary did when she
anointed his head with the ointment of spikenard that was very costly,
one pound of it worth three hundred pence, and so fragrant that the
house was filled with the pleasing odour of it (Jn. 12:3), which story seems
as if it were designed to refer to this passage, for Christ was then sitting
at table. When good Christians, in any religious duty, especially in the
ordinance of the Lord's supper, where the King is pleased, as it were, to sit
with us at his own table, have their graces exercised, their
hearts broken by repentance, healed by faith, and inflamed with holy love and
desires toward Christ, with joyful expectations of the glory to be revealed,
then the spikenard sends forth the smell thereof. Christ is pleased to
reckon himself honoured by it, and to accept of it as an instance of respect to
him, as it was in the wise men of the east, who paid their homage to the
new-born King of the Jews by presenting to him frankincense and myrrh.
The graces of God's Spirit in the hearts of believers are exceedingly precious
in themselves and pleasing to Christ, and his presence in ordinances draws them
out into act and exercise. If he withdraw, graces wither and languish, as plants
in the absence of the sun; if he approach, the face of the soul is renewed, as
of the earth in the spring; and then it is time to bestir ourselves, that we may
not lose the gleam, not lose the gale; for nothing is done acceptably but what
grace does, Heb. 12:28.
2. The strong affection they have for Christ as their beloved,
their well-beloved, v. 13. Christ is not only beloved by all
believing souls, but is their well-beloved, their best-beloved, their
only beloved; he has that place in their hearts which no rival can be admitted
to, the innermost and uppermost place. Observe, (1.) How Christ is accounted of
by all believers: He is a bundle of myrrh and a cluster of camphire,
something, we may be sure, nay, every thing, that is pleasant and delightful.
The doctrine of his gospel, and the comforts of his Spirit, are very refreshing
to them, and they rest in his love; none of all the delights of sense are
comparable to the spiritual pleasure they have in meditating on Christ and
enjoying him. There is a complicated sweetness in Christ and an abundance of it;
there is a bundle of myrrh and a cluster of camphire. We are not
straitened in him whom there is all fulness. The word translated camphire
is copher, the same word that signifies atonement or propitiation.
Christ is a cluster of merit and righteousness to all believers; therefore
he is dear to them because he is the propitiation for their sins. Observe
what stress the spouse lays upon the application: He is unto me, and
again unto me, all that is sweet; whatever he is to others, he is so to
me. He loved me, and gave himself for me. He is my Lord, and my
God. (2.) How he is accepted: He shall lie all night between my breasts,
near my heart. Christ lays the beloved disciples in his bosom; why then should
not they lay their beloved Saviour in their bosoms? Why should not they embrace
him with both arms, and hold him fast, with a resolution never to let him go?
Christ must dwell in the heart (Eph. 3:17), and, in order to that, the
adulteries must be put from between the breasts (Hos. 2:2), no pretender
must have his place in the soul. He shall be as a bundle of myrrh, or
perfume bag, between my breasts, always sweet to me; or his effigies in
miniature, his love-tokens, shall be hung between my breasts, according
to the custom of those that are dear to each other. He shall not only be laid
their for a while, but shall lie there, shall abide there.
II. Jesus Christ has a great complacency in his church and in
every true believer; they are amiable in his eyes (v. 15): Behold, thou art
fair, my love; and again, Behold, thou art fair. He says this, not to
make her proud (humility is one principal ingredient in spiritual beauty), but,
1. To show that there is a real beauty in holiness, that all who are sanctified
are thereby beautified; they are truly fair. 2. That he takes great delight in
that good work which his grace has wrought on the souls of believers; so that
though they have their infirmities, whatever they think of themselves, and the
world thinks of them, he thinks them fair. He calls them friends. The hidden
man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, is in the sight of
God of great price, 1 Pt. 3:4. 3. To comfort weak believers, who are
discouraged by their own blackness; let them be told again and again that they
are fair. 4. To engage all who are sanctified to be very thankful for that grace
which has made them fair, who by nature were deformed, and changed the Ethiopian's
skin. One instance of the beauty of the spouse is here mentioned, that she has
doves' eyes, as ch. 4:1. Those are fair, in Christ's account, who have,
not the piercing eye of the eagle, but the pure and chaste eye of the dove,
not like the hawk, who, when he soars upwards, still has his eye upon the prey
on earth, but a humble modest eye, such an eye as discovers a simplicity and
godly sincerity and a dove-like innocency, eyes enlightened and guided by the
Holy Spirit, that blessed Dove, weeping eyes. I did mourn as a dove, Eze.