The Chapter opens with giving the title of the book. The Church then takes up the subject with expressing her love to Christ, and desiring fresh manifestations of his affection to her. She compares his love to the fragrancy of the richest ointment. She prays to be drawn by him, and professeth her readiness to run after him. She describes her blackness as in herself, and comeliness as in him: complains of the unkindness of her relations; and desires to know where Jesus feeds his flock, longing to be in his and his people's company. In return to these vehement desires of the church, Jesus now takes up the subject, and distinguishing her by the title of the fairest among women, directs her in her enquiry where to find him and his fold. Jesus then enlargeth upon her beauty, and gives her many sweet and precious promises. The church, in return, commends the loveliness of Jesus, and the chapter concludes in mutual congratulations.
Song of Solomon 1:1
The song of songs, which is Solomon's.
The first object which calls our attention in opening this blessed book of God, is the title of it, namely, A Song. And as it is Solomon's Song, by which is evidently meant, as will hereafter more plainly appear, Jesus Christ, (for a greater than Solomon is here); we may, without violence to the expression, call it a gospel song; for its whole contents is of salvation by Jesus Christ. When a soul is taught by the Holy Ghost to sing this song, then is that scripture fulfilled, In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah: we have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Isaiah 26:1. And Reader! when Christ is truly formed in the heart, the Lord hath put a new song in the mouth. Psalms 98:1. But it is not only a song, but the song of songs; and if it treats wholly of Jesus and his great salvation, well may it merit this distinguished name. Well, indeed, may that be called the excellency of all excellencies, which hath Jesus for its object, and his love to his Church for the subject matter. How very sweet and precious to trace in it the several marks, and testimonies of his love. And on the other hand, delightful to behold the goings forth of the Church's love, awakened by the Holy Ghost on the person of Jesus. Surely such a person as the Lord Jesus is, and such subject-matter as the mutual love and union between Jesus and his people forms, may well be called the song of songs. Oh! for grace to bear a part in it with all the redeemed of the Lord! But we must not stop here. It is not only the song of songs, but it is Solomon's. I do not deny but that Solomon king of Israel was the penman of it; nay, I have no doubt but that Solomon, David's son, was the writer of it: but I hesitate not to believe, that in the writing of it he acted only as the penman to the Holy Ghost, as his Father David had done before him in the Psalms: and in those scriptures, they, with all the other inspired writers, wrote as the Apostle tells us the prophets and holy men of old spake, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:21. I venture to believe, that there is not a line in it which hath the smallest reference to Solomon king of Israel. So far from being, as some impious men have said, the love-Song and Pharaoh's daughter, that it carries with it a contradiction in many places. Whoever consults the life and reign of Solomon, will discover that his marriage with Pharaoh's daughter was full twenty years before this book was written. Seven years was Solomon in building the temple, and thirteen years more in building his own house. Compare 1 Kings 6:38, with 1 Kings 7:1; after which we are told he built the house of the forest of Lebanon, which is noticed in Song of Solomon 7:4 compared with 1 Kings 7:2, and 1 Kings 3:1. And if it be proved, as I think this one view of the subject fully proves it, that it could have no reference to Solomon's marriage with Pharaoh's daughter, it will as fully prove also that it is not, as some have ventured to think, typical: for how can that be a representation by type concerning Solomon's marriage, when the subject itself could never arise out of it. Besides, Pharaoh's daughter was never what the Church is said to be, a keeper of vineyards: neither beaten by watchmen, nor running about by night in quest of her beloved. These accounts figuratively considered, have a sweet reference to the Church looking after Jesus; but would be ridiculous and false, if read with an eye to the daughter of Pharaoh. See Song of Solomon 1:6; Son_5:7; Son_3:2. But if by Solomon's Song we accept the expression as it might have been rendered, the Song of Songs concerning Solomon; meaning the true Solomon, the Lord Jesus Christ, then we shall at once enter into the proper apprehension of what is meant by the expression, and be led to a right conclusion, that it is indeed the Song of Songs, as infinitely transcending all other songs, in treating of Him, who is the altogether lovely, and the chiefest among ten thousand.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
Thus the song, opens: and there can be no hesitation to discover the singer, namely, the Church. It is she which begins it. But Reader! do not imagine, that because the Church opens this Song, that thereby is meant to intimate love begins first in the human breast. No! thou blessed Jesus! thy love is first in the field; and if we do love thee, it is because thou hast first loved us. 1 John 4:19. Hadst thou not loved us with an everlasting love; nay, hadst thou not found out some way of subduing the natural enmity of our hearts; hadst thou not sweetly constrained and drawn us with the bands of love to thyself; never should we have loved thee, or desired to love thee. But when that everlasting love of thine prompted thy sacred breast to manifest it to us, and by thy sweet Spirit to give us a sense and perception of it; then thy love to our souls became the source and fountain of our love to thee, and hath drawn us to thyself, and now will keep us near thy dear Person forever!
There is a great beauty in the manner of the Church's expression when she saith, Let him kiss me. She doth not call Jesus by name, but him: meaning, no doubt, that her whole soul and heart was so full of him, that it was needless to mention whom she meant. She could refer to no other. We have several beautiful examples of the same kind in scripture. The Psalmist; Psalms 73:25. Mary Magdalene; John 20:15. Peter's account of the Church; 1 Peter 1:8.
The object of the Church's request is interesting, that Jesus would kiss her with the kisses of his mouth; meaning the manifestation of his presence. This was what the Old Testament-saints longed for; the appearance of Christ in the flesh: and the same is what New Testament believers continually desire more of. The manifestation of the Lord Jesus, in substance of our flesh, might well be called kisses; because his incarnation was a sure pledge that he came to redeem our fallen nature; and the acceptance of redemption by us, is, in one part of scripture, summed up in this comprehensive way, as kissing the Son. Psalms 2:12. Well might the Old Testament Church thus long for Christ's coming, that the salvation of Israel might come to Zion. Psalms 53:6. For however God spake in sundry times, and in divers manners, to our fathers by the prophets; yet prophets, nor angels, nor wise men, nor scribes, none were like Jesus: never man spake like him. Thou, and thou only, dearest Jesus, hast the words of eternal life. But, my soul, was this the request of the Old Testament Church only? Dost not thou, doth not every real follower of the Lord Jesus in the New as earnestly long, and passionately cry out, for frequent, constant, uninterrupted manifestations of himself, and his love to our hearts? Yes! the language of all that know our Lord Jesus Christ, is, like the Church: Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.
I hardly think it necessary to remind the Reader, that the request is for kisses in the plural number, and not for one kiss only, a single token of Jesus's love. The cause of this is very obvious. They who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, will desire to taste more and more of him. There must be repeated manifestations of his love, and repeated desires of the soul going forth after him. And though a believing soul may, and will say, when under a dark state of mind, and an absence, as to our view of things, of the light of God's countenance; oh! that Jesus would but grant me one token of his love, one kiss of his mouth, one sweet smile of his favour, which is better than life itself; yet, when the Lord Jesus comes with his hands full of grace, and his heart full of love, the soul finds such rapture in communion, that she will not be satisfied with a little; but, like the Patriarch, will wrestle for a blessing, and will lay hold of the skirt of his mantle, saying, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. Genesis 32:26. Pause, Reader, and admire with me the condescension of our Jesus! doth he, indeed, whom angels adore, kiss with the kisses of his mouth poor polluted sinners. Is it an honour to kiss the hand of an earthly prince? And will our heavenly King himself kiss with his mouth the beggars of the dunghill? Oh! precious Jesus! what a love is thine. But we must not stop here. The Church gives the reason for her request: Thy love is better than wine. Let the Reader remark with me, that the manner of expression in the song is now changed. She had before been speaking of him. And now she particularly speaks to him. But what an endless subject is opened here in the view of Jesus love? Who shall describe it, as it is in itself; as it is in its effects; or as it manifests itself to the souls of his people.
Yes! thou dearest Jesus, none but thyself can tell what it is. It began before all worlds. It had its rise in thyself: nothing in us, no, not even our misery prompted thee to it, though our misery afforded occasion for its display. But it would rob thee, dearest Lord, of thy glory, in thy love to us, to say that anything in us became the cause. No! it was spontaneous in thy holy breast. And as it was from everlasting; so it is to everlasting. And the duration of thy love is only equaled by the nature and quality of it, in its greatness, extensiveness, aboundings, unmeasurable by heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths: a love indeed that passeth knowledge: and as infinitely surpassing all creature love as the drop of the bucket, or the small dust of the balance. Its blessed effects also are such as no language can describe. All that we have in time: all that we look forward to in eternity. All the mercies of redemption, all the works of grace, and all the hopes of glory; the whole hath its rise in this unparalleled love of Jesus. Neither are the manifestations of it less wonderful on the hearts of the Lord's people. For what can equal the astonishing powers of this love in converting such an heart as mine, (may I, Reader, add yours also) from an hatred to the Lord and his ways, to the love of him and his salvation. Can you be surprised, Reader; then, that the Church should cry out under such views of Jesus; Thy love is better than wine. Wine is an high cordial, and as such it is recommended in the book of the Proverbs, to be given to the heavy in heart. Proverbs 31:6. But then it can reach no further than to the refreshment of the body. But the love of our Jesus reacheth to the soul. If I give a poor, famishing, fainting creature a little wine, it may revive his spirits. But if Jesus gives his precious love to me, it will heal my soul. It hath done so, dearest Lord, for thou hast quickened my soul which before was dead in trespasses and sins. And now the renewed draughts of the same everlasting love keep my soul alive, and preserve it from day to day. Reader! do you know anything of this love of Jesus? Can you say, as the Church did, Thy love is better than wine? If so, let us ask the dear Lord to shed abroad the sweet tokens of this love more and more in our hearts: here is no danger of intoxication. We would be drunken, but not with wine. Jesus hath said, Drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.
Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
It is the Church which is here addressing herself to Jesus. And the substance of what this verse contains seems to be, that there is in her esteem so much fragrancy and preciousness in the very name of her Lord, that, like the holy ointment of the sanctuary, which was both costly and odorous, her spiritual senses were gratified by it. And not only the Church, but the heart of the virgins were sweetly influenced by the same. It may be proper to remind the Reader, that the Lord himself gave Moses the prescription for making the holy ointment, to be used in the sanctuary, with which Aaron and his sons, and the tabernacle were to be anointed. See Exodus 30:22-30. And we find in after ages, that the consecration of kings, and priests, and prophets, as well as the vessels of the tabernacle was by this ointment. Hence, therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ is said to be anointed, both as King in Zion, as Priest after the order of Melchisedek, and as Prophet, when he was anointed to preach the gospel to the poor. He as our great Head and Mediator, was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, when, like another Aaron, (and whom Aaron typified), the holy oil of the Spirit was poured out without measure upon his sacred head, which ran down to the skirts of his garments, even to the humblest and poorest of the members of his mystical body, who are said thereby to have an unction from the Holy One, and to know all things. 1 John 2:20; Psalms 110:2-4; Psa_45:7; Isaiah 61:1; Psalms 133:2. Reader! how sweet is it to observe, that our Lord Jesus Christ, whose name for his redemption-work to his Church and people becomes so precious and savoury, was thus anointed as the God-man Mediator from all eternity. Well may his name be as ointment poured forth, when we behold him as the anointed of the Father, full of grace and truth, and engaging before all worlds for our redemption, anointed by the Holy Ghost from the womb in his human nature, at his baptism, through his whole offices and ministry, and, when returning triumphant to glory, receiving all the gifts of the Holy Ghost for his people, and all power as Mediator both in heaven and in earth. Reader! is not his name as ointment poured forth to you? - But here is another sweet part in this verse to be noticed by us. The Church calls these ointments thy good ointments. Yes! they are peculiarly belonging to our Jesus. They are his, in common with the Father and the Holy Ghost, as God. All things were made by him, and without was not anything made that was made. John 1:3.
But these are yet more peculiarly his as God-man Mediator, because by redemption-work he hath purchased all the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit for his people: for all these are included in the covenant. See Isaiah 59:21; Isa_44:2-3, etc. And they are his, being himself the sum and substance of the whole of them, to bestow them on whom, and in what degree and extent he pleases; for it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and it is of his fulness all his people receive, and grace for grace. John 1:16; Joh_17:2. Reader! is not Jesus name most sweet and precious to you on these accounts? Doth it not give a lift to your soul, when you hear him say, I have all grace, and faith, and strength, and consolation, and every new covenant mercy; and I have it for my people. But we must not stop here in our review of this blessed verse. The Church saith, that it is the name of Jesus which is as ointment to her soul. Here, therefore, as no one particular name is mentioned, and he hath condescended to reveal himself under so very many, and all of them most precious, precious names, have we not authority to conclude, that every name of Jesus is; or ought to be, like the most fragrant ointment to our spiritual senses? And didst thou not, dearest Jesus, purposely in this verse cause thy Church to speak only of thy name in general, without particularizing which, that thy people might learn from hence, that all are equally dear, and all equally to be prized, as the most costly ointment of the sanctuary? Reader! where shall you and I begin, or where end, in the enumeration of the many precious names of the Lord Jesus. Oh! my adored Lord God, I would call thee Jehovah, Alehim, Adonai, Emmanuel, the Lord our righteousness, Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. The Shiloh, the redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. The Christ of God, the sent of God, the anointed of God, the sealed of God. I would call thee Jesus, the Saviour of poor lost sinners, my Saviour, my King, my God. Oh! how shall I enumerate the thousandth part of thy loveliness, or of the sweet savor of thy name. Blessed be God, there is salvation in no other; my soul renounceth every other, most completely and fully satisfied as I am, that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12. There is yet remaining to be noticed, that part of this lovely verse which speaks of the virgins affection to Jesus: therefore do the virgins love thee. By the virgins, it seems probable is meant true believers. And this title of virgins is not singular when applied to such, for the undefiled in heaven before the throne are called by the same name. Revelation 14:2. And there is a great propriety in it, if we consider that the followers of the Lamb are supposed to have a single eye to the Redeemer's glory: are chaste in life, in conversation, in doctrine, in fellowship, and above all in their attachment to Jesus. Paul beautifully speaks of believers to this effect in one of his epistles: I am jealous over you (says he) with godly jealousy, for I have espoused to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2. Reader! do you and I love Jesus on the same account? Have we such regard to his person, that his name, his people, his word, his ordinances, and all that belong to him, are precious in our esteem? Every poor follower of Jesus may ascertain his real love and faith in the Lamb by this rule. Peter saith, that unto them which believe he is precious. 1 Peter 2:7. Then it will plainly follow, and I am a believer if Jesus be precious to me.
Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.
The Church is still going on in her discourse in this verse: and her address is still to him, whose name is as ointment poured forth. The verse opens with a petition to the Lord, draw me. As if conscious, that without this precious act of sovereign grace, and which is literally the case, the church could not come to Jesus. It is a promise of Jehovah, arising from his everlasting love, to draw his people. I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee. Jeremiah 31:3. And our Lord Jesus hath laid so much stress upon those drawings of the Father, that he expressly saith: no man can came unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. John 6:44. and again repeated to show its importance, verse John 6:65. But, as if to show at once that one-ness in the Godhead, which Jesus hath with the Father, and to encourage the poor sinner which like the Church here desires to be drawn to Christ, Jesus himself sweetly promised in his gospel, that when he was lifted up upon his cross all his redeemed ones he would draw to himself. John 12:32. Reader! do you know what those gracious drawings mean in your own experience? Have you felt your heart constrained to come to Jesus Christ for life and for salvation, convinced by the Holy Ghost that you need his salvation, and that without it you are lost forever. If so, you will be able to describe, better than any form of words I can make use of, what that sovereign and effectual grace is, which totally differs from all moral persuasion, and which sweetly constrains the soul to fly out of itself into the arms of Jesus, for pardon, mercy, and peace, in the blood of his cross. You will then be able to tell me, how the Lord wrought upon your heart, how divinely he taught you the evil of sin, and loveliness of Jesus: and led out your whole soul upon his person and righteousness. And since the first drawings of his love, how he now at times inclines your whole soul to desire nearer communion with him, and more frequent manifestations of himself; and to keep you from ever more being drawn away by the world, by the suggestions of Satan, or the remains of indwelling corruption in your own heart, from Jesus, the sole object of your love. See David's desire to this effect, Psalms 27:4.
But we should observe on this verse, that while the church prays to be drawn to Jesus, she promiseth for herself and companions (perhaps the virgins before spoken of) that they will run after him. Draw me, we will run after thee. When she says draw me, we will run after thee; the Church did not mean to say that the drawing of her would incline all to run, unless indeed we consider the Church in this place, as the collected body of believers, and then the doctrine is sweet and consolatory. For the Church as one made up of the whole body, of which Jesus is the head, is his fulness. Ephesians 1:23, But without reading the passage in this sense, it will follow that the drawings of the Lord are necessary for every individual member of his mystical body. There is a great beauty in the expression running after Christ. Not simply running to him once for protection, but always pursuing him: following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Revelation 14:4. Cleaving to him, as Moses expresseth it. Deuteronomy 10:20; or as Isaiah hath it, hanging upon him all the glory of his Father's house. Isaiah 22:24. It is in this sense David meant it no doubt, when he said; / will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart. Psalms 119:32.
The next clause in the verse seems to carry with it an idea, that her request hath been heard and answered: for the Church saith, the king hath brought me into his chambers. And this proves the truth of that most blessed promise: And it shall come to pass that before they call I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24.
By the King, as hath before been observed, can be meant no other than the Lord Jesus. And by the Church distinguishing him, peculiarly by this title in the very opening of her song is meant, no doubt, to show the sovereignty of Jehovah in redemption. It is beautiful if we consider the title given, in the very commencement of the communion and fellowship between Christ and his Church, on this account, as referring the whole into the Lord's supremacy. When a poor sinner in the after stages of his warfare is enabled to look back and trace sovereign power in the founding of salvation; whatever difficulties then occur, he feels a proportioned confidence in the issue of every event. Is it not Jehovah that hath founded Zion, and shall not the poor of his people trust in it? Isaiah 14:32. Can anything undo his purposes, or make him alter the plan of his counsel Hath he said, and shall he not do it: or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Numbers 23:19. Oh! Reader it is very sweet in times of trial to rest upon the sovereignty of God, and his faithfulness in the promise: for then, like the prophet, the soul can sing; The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty, he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. Zephaniah 3:17. Reader! what are your views of this glorious, this sovereign, this almighty king Jesus? Do you know him in his Godhead, as one with the Father over all, God blessed forever? Do you know him as the God-man Mediator, to whom as the constituted head of his Church an universal empire is his, in heaven and in earth; the sovereign of angels, of all worlds, of heaven, hell, death, and the grave? He saith himself, all power is mine in heaven and in earth. And he hath not only received a kingdom which cannot be moved, from the gift of his Father; but by his blood and the conquests of his grace he hath purchased to himself universal and everlasting dominion. Doth my Reader's heart, with holy joy, bend to the sceptre of his kingly throne? And doth his tongue as gladly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father? This is made one striking mark of his people, and confirmed by the solemnity of Jehovah's own asseveration. Isaiah 45:23.
By the king's having brought the Church into his chambers, we may understand that the marriage between Christ and his Church is consummated. The union is formed. The poor sinner is one in Christ Jesus. The Son of God hath accomplished the long planned object of redemption. From the gift of his Father, the purchase of his blood, and the conquests of his Spirit, he hath now brought home his bride the Church, hath led her into his chambers, made her savingly acquainted with the treasures of his grace, and put her in possession of all his promises, which neither death, nor hell, no, nor the unbelief of her own heart shall finally deprive her of. Well might the prophet in the contemplation cry out; Sing, O ye heavens, for the Lord hath done it; shout ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel. Isaiah 44:23. I beg the Reader particularly to remark with me the delightful expression in this part of the verse, the king hath brought the Church into his chambers. Not that the Church found her way there, neither of herself came there; but the king brought her there. Yes! thou dearest Jesus! thou must bring thy people in, or they will never come. It is thou that hast opened a new and living way for us through thy blood. And the way thou hast once opened by thy blood, thou ever livest to keep open by thy power, and the all prevailing efficacy of thy merits, death, and intercession; but unless thou bring us in, and by the sovereignty of thy Holy Spirit lead our souls by the hand into thy presence, and the presence of God our Father; never would any of thy people draw nigh in their own strength and merit. Reader! I trust the Lord hath taught you this precious truth; that having the sentence if death in ourselves we may not trust in ourselves, but in him that raiseth the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:9.
But what are those chambers into which the king brings his Church and people? Not those mansions above, I apprehend, which Jesus is gone before to take possession of in his Church's name, and whence he will come again by and by to take his people to himself. Though believers now, may truly be said by faith to rest in Jesus; for he is the rest wherewith he causeth the weary to rest, and he is their refreshing. Isaiah 28:12. But concerning our everlasting home it may be said of this, as Moses told Israel in the wilderness: ye are not as yet come to the rest, and to the inheritance which the Lord your God giveth you. Deuteronomy 12:9. Those chambers of the king therefore seem to mean, acquaintance, and knowledge, and communion, into which the Lord brings poor sinners when he shows them his covenant: when he reveals to them his love, and brings them more intimately acquainted with their own corruptions, and their need of him: when he opens to them the scriptures of truth: pours out upon them the gracious manifestations of himself: gives them ravishing views of his glory, and in short, reveals himself to them otherwise than he doeth to the world. John 14:22. Reader! hath our king Jesus in any of those ways brought you into his chambers?
The joy of those spoken of in this verse, is the next point to be regarded. We will be glad and rejoice in thee: that is, in Christ. But who the persons are that are said here to be glad and rejoice in Christ, is not said; though it should seem from what was related before, that it means the virgins, or believers in Jesus. And there is indeed enough cause to be glad, and to rejoice in him. His person, his salvation, his love to his people; his great undertaking for them, and his accomplishment of it: everything indeed relating to Jesus furnisheth subject for joy. When we consider what he is in himself, what he is to his Church, what he hath wrought, what he will perform, and what will be the everlasting source of happiness in him; these thoughts furnish endless matter of rejoicing, so that well might the virgins be said to express themselves in the words of this verse: we will be glad and rejoice in thee. Reader! what saith your heart to the same? Have you ever contemplated the Lamb of God in his own spotless purity? Have you ever beheld him taking away sin, by the sacrifice of himself? Have you looked at our Jesus and contemplated him under all his endearing characters, bringing in his Church as the king into his chambers: acting as the High Priest in making atonement for his people by his blood, and pleading their cause by his complete righteousness and intercession? And as the great prophet of his Church teaching by his Holy Spirit all things, and guiding and leading into all truth? Do you behold him who is thus set forth in his blessed word, and do you not find your heart going forth in the same earnestness as the virgins: We will be glad and rejoice in thee.
But this is not all. It is added: we will remember thy love more than wine. Hath not this an allusion to the ordinance of the supper? The Lord hath made in this mountain a feast to all people, of wine on the lees well refined. Isaiah 25:6. But saith the believing soul, the remembrance of Jesus love shall more exhilarate my soul; than the strongest, richest, wine. Reader! it is one thing to have communion with the cup at the table, and another to have fellowship with Jesus in his blood. In that sacred service are your eyes singly to him, and his person, whom God hath set forth a propitiation through faith, in his blood? Romans 3:25.
The last clause of this verse is, The upright love thee. By the upright we may suppose are meant, sincere followers of Jesus. David calls them the undefiled in the way, and that walk in the law of the Lord. Psalms 119:1. Precious souls who have given in their names to. Jesus, and will not go back. The book of Ruth furnisheth a beautiful example of the kind in the person of that converted Moabite. The language of every true believer in Christ corresponds to what she said to Naomi. Intreat me not (she said) to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. Ruth 1:16-17.
I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.
There is a very great beauty in this verse, considered as to the view the Church had of herself as she really was in herself, and as she really was in Christ, and as beheld in him. And I think, if the Reader connects these expressions (as no doubt he ought) with what went before, he will discover a still greater beauty. She had desired the Lord to draw her that she might run after him - this was done. The king had brought her into his very chambers. Overpowered with such condescending grace the Church looks into herself, and sees so much vileness and iniquity that her soul swoons in the view, and cries out "I am black, O ye daughters of Jerusalem:" full of spots, and in myself covered over with the leprosy of sin. But behold, by the clothing of Jesus's righteousness and the washing in his blood, how comely I am in the comeliness which he hath put upon me?
By the daughters of Jerusalem I should conceive is meant the same as the virgins before noticed: only as a beautiful variety to heighten the representation they are here called daughters. For considering Jerusalem which is above, as the Apostle calls her, the Mother of us all, who belong to the gospel church, and of the general assembly whose names are written in heaven; they are all one in Christ Jesus. See Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22-23; Galatians 3:27-28. The comparison the Church makes of her corruption by nature to the tents of Kedar, and of her loveliness in Jesus to the curtains of Solomon, is uncommonly beautiful. Kedar was one of the children of Ishmael, whose posterity dwelt in tents, being shepherds. And no doubt those tents being exposed to the weather acquired blackness from variety of seasons, of sun, and storms, and rain. The blackness of those tents became no unapt representation of the dark state of the mind by nature, and the habit of mourning in the soul by reason thereof. And moreover, it might be meant to show also the black estate in which the Church of Jesus appears in the eyes of the world. See Genesis 24:13; Isaiah 42:11. The contrast to all this in the curtains of Solomon, which, no doubt, from the riches of Solomon, and the splendour in which he lived, must have been very superb and elegant, is equally striking to represent the loveliness of the Church, who as the king's daughter is all glorious within, when beheld in the garment of Christ's salvation, and made as Zion is said to be, a perfection of beauty, from the comeliness Jesus hath put upon her. See Lamentations 2:15; Psalms 45:13; Ezekiel 16:14. Reader! what say you to this account the Church gives of herself? Can you adopt the same language? Do you behold yourself as in yourself, vile and worthless: but in the righteousness of Jesus, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing? Can you join issue with the Church; I will greatly rejoice
in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God, for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation: he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10.
Before I dismiss this verse, I would call upon the Reader to remark with me what a precious view this state of the Church gives, both of our Lord's unparalleled grace and condescension, and the happy state into which the sinner is brought by his great salvation. I stand amazed, dearest Jesus, notwithstanding all I have heard, and all I have known of thy love to our fallen nature, in the contemplation of such grace as is here displayed. Was it not enough that thou shouldest come down from the realms of light and glory, to seek and save that which was lost; but dost thou go on to such unequalled condescension as to receive sinners, and eat with them? to make those that are by nature black as the tents of Kedar, fair and lovely as the curtains of Solomon? Nay, more, to unite them to thyself, and to make them one with thyself in the human nature, as thou art one with the Father in the Godhead. Reader, if happily the Lord thy God hath wrought this work of grace on thee, learn why it is the King hath brought thee into his chambers, namely, from his love and mercy; not thy desert. And in the consciousness of this, however despised and looked upon as black by the world, rejoice in the hidden glory put upon thee by the Lord thy righteousness. This is enough to support thee under all thy afflictions.
Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.
If, as some have thought, the Gentile Church is here particularly referred to, who being converted from heathenism and idolatry, to the knowledge and enjoyment of the covenant God in Christ, may be said to have been gathered from a dark estate, there will be an uncommon degree of beauty in the expressions. Look not upon me with an eye of disdain by reason of my former situation, nor of envy, because Jesus hath regarded me in my low estate, for his mercy endureth forever. Reader! it is always precious to keep in view the rock whence we were hewn; and the hole of the pit from whence we were digged. Isaiah 51:1. But, indeed, in a more general point of view, the converted soul, conscious of its own worthlessness and unsuitableness to bear inspection, begs favour in the eyes of all lookers on, not to estimate the state in which the soul stands in Jesus's love, by what they recollect of her former condition by nature, or the many infirmities since grace hath been vouchsafed her. The ungodly, unawakened, and carnal world, delight in the frailties of God's children. Aha! is their language, if at any time they fall, so would we have it.
By the sun looking upon her, some have thought is meant the Son of righteousness. But this blessed aspect would not contribute to make black, but fair, for so is the promise. Malachi 4:2. I rather think that the expression is similar, in allusion to hot countries, to what our Lord saith in his gospel, concerning the scorching sun on the seed; inducing, heat like the fire of persecution. And then the sense will be, look not upon me with a jealous or suspicious eye; questioning the reality of the work of grace in my heart, because I have so much blackness of infirmities upon me; for I have been so scorched with the sun of persecution, that I am not in myself what I am in Christ Jesus.
My mother's children were angry with me. This phrase is very plain in its meaning, after what our Lord Jesus Christ hath taught us of the displeasure of carnal relations, as soon as ever a work of grace is wrought upon the heart. A man's foes are they of his own household. How strikingly is this manifested in every age of the Church. Reader! put it down as a maxim of everlasting truth and certainty. As in the case of Jacob and Esau; as he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the spirit, even so it is now. Galatians 4:29.
They made me the keeper of the vineyards. Keeper of the vineyards was the most servile office; and, from the extreme heat and sultry exposure out of doors in the execution of it, became an irksome employment. In a spiritual sense, perhaps, it means that the Church was long exposed to false teachers when in the unconverted state of heathenism. And in the Jewish Church our Lord told the scribes and Pharisees, that they had made the commandments of God of none effect by their traditions. Nothing can be more opposite to the true spirit of the gospel than forms of godliness without the power. In a figurative language this may be called the vine of Sodom, and the fields of Gomorrah; the grapes of which are grapes of gall, and their clusters are bitter. Deuteronomy 32:32.
But mine own vineyard have I not kept. How beautiful is grace which thus induceth humility. We find a little further on in this Song the Lord Jesus calleth his spouse the fairest among women; yet in the view she had of herself, she sees nothing but blackness as the tents of Kedar; and the neglect of her own soul, while engaged in the service of others. Such, Reader, depend upon it, will ever be the teaching of the Holy Ghost. The soul who lives nearest to Jesus in sweet fellowship, and communion, will be led most to discover his own poverty and negligence. We see most dust in a room where the sun shines must clear; and the believer never lies lower before the Lord in humbleness of spirit, than when the Lord Jesus exalts that soul with brighter views of his glory.
Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?
There is a great beauty in this verse. The Church had been speaking in the preceding to the daughters of Jerusalem. She now turns from them to speak to Jesus. The communion of saints is sweet: but, oh! how infinitely sweeter is fellowship and communion with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:3. But what doth thee Church say to Jesus? She considers him under one of his precious characters, as the great Shepherd of his fold, the Church; and viewing herself as his property, both by the Father's gift, his own purchase, and the conquests of his grace by his Holy Spirit, she earnestly desires that he would tell her where it was that he fed his flock, and where he caused it to rest at noon. Every word in this sweet verse is most highly interesting; but it would swell the Commentary to a length not admissible in a work of this kind, to enlarge upon the several portions of it. A few of the more striking particulars must be sufficient.
In the first place, the cry of a truly awakened soul, for personal enjoyment of Jesus and all his benefits, is here strongly expressed, Tell me, O thou, whom my soul loveth! Reader! it is the truest sign of interest in Jesus, when the soul is going out after him in longing desires. And do observe further, that the soul may be going out in the most earnest desires after Jesus, when, as in the instance of the Church here, the soul may be at a loss where to find her Beloved. There may be, and there sometimes is, in the best of Christ's disciples, darkness upon the mind from the persecution of the world, the temptations of Satan, and from the body of sin and death they carry about with them: but when Jesus, by his Holy Spirit, awakes anew this desire in the soul, these desires plainly prove that the grace of the Lord Jesus remains unextinguished.
In the next place, we may observe the unanswerable strength of the arguments the Church makes use of to prevail with Jesus. He is her Beloved; and she is in extreme need. Reader! it is a precious testimony in the soul, when, like Peter, amidst the numberless circumstances of unworthiness which are in me, I can still say, Lord! thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. And shall one that loves Jesus, be as one that loves him not? Shall I be in doubt like others, that know thee not; whether I am thine, or not? Shall I, whom thou hast betrothed to thyself as thy spouse, be regarded as if I was an harlot? Shall it be thought by others that are turned aside, and who are not of thy fold, that I am like one of them? Oh! show me where thou feedest, where this flock is; that, like a lamb of it, I may be found among thy fold, and fed from thine own hand, and brought under thine own eye and care.
There is a very great beauty in this character of the Lord Jesus,
considered in his pastoral office, in which the Church here beholds him. And if the Reader hath not been much accustomed to consider Jesus under this character and office, I shall rejoice, if the reference to him, which the Church makes in this most interesting point of view, should call up his attention. Through the whole of the eventful history of the Church, from the very first forming of it, to the ministry of Jesus at his incarnation, the Lord seems to have been pleased that his people should consider him under this character: hence one of the sacred writers cries out, Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock: thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. Psalms 80:1. And as if God our Father meant to hold him forth to his people in a yet more endearing point of view, it is remarkable that he is called God's Shepherd. See Zechariah 13:7. And that his people might know him as such, as suited to all their wants and circumstances, he is expressly distinguished under the various names of the great Shepherd, Hebrews 13:20; the good Shepherd, John 10:11; the chief Shepherd, 1 Peter 5:4, and the like; intimating that he is exactly suited to every case of his flock. His greatness becomes their security for all things: his goodness, never to let them want: his sovereignty, and being the only One, implies that every other is unnecessary. And as the Father's Shepherd, coming in his name, appointed by his authority, all his acts are valid, and his sheep cannot but be eternally secure. They shall never perish, nor any pluck them out of his hand; because his Father gave them, who is greater than all, and none can pluck them out of his Father's hand. I saith Jesus, and my Father are One. John 10:28-30.
I stay not to particularize the many precious things folded up in this one character of Jesus: I only refer the Reader to the several passages in his sacred
word, which confirm this glorious truth: and I beg of him, to read the same with attention; and form, under the teaching of the Holy Ghost, his opinion of their importance. John 10:16-18; Ps 23; Eze 34
throughout. Hebrews 13:20.
But beside the character of Jesus as a Shepherd, We must notice the office also belonging to our dear Lord, of feeding. Tell me (saith the Church) where thou feedest. Now this is a most delightful feature in the portrait of Jesus. It was prophesied of him before his coming, that he should feed his flock like a Shepherd. Isaiah 40:11. And it is affirmed of him after his return to glory, that he is the Lamb in the midst of the throne to feed his Church. Revelation 7:17. So that this act of Christ is perpetual. And if we take into our consideration what is evidently implied in feeding, we shall discover that it intends everything necessary to be done for the welfare of his flock. It is the office of the Shepherd, not only to provide pasture, but to protect from rapine; not only to guard the weak, but to restore wanderers, to heal the diseased, to search and seek out those that are scattered in the dark and cloudy day; or as Jesus most graciously expresses it himself: To seek that which was lost, and bring back again that which was driven away: to bind up that which was broken, and strengthen that which was sick. Ezekiel 34:16. Reader! have you ever considered your Almighty Shepherd under this sweet character? Have you yourself experienced the tenderness of your Shepherd? Do you know him, of going in and out before you in the pastures of his holy word, in the ordinances of worship, and in the gracious services of his house of prayer? Do you know him in his voice, in seasons of wandering, in his watchings over you like the Shepherd of Bethlehem in right seasons; in his deliverance of you from the lion's dens, and the mountains of the leopards. Oh! the preciousness of knowing the Redeemer under this endearing character! The sheep of Christ, who are the objects of his care, can best describe what is implied in this one feature of their Lord's love towards them. The office of a Shepherd is distinguished in the freeness and graciousness of his love. Though the sheep fail in their obedience, Jesus never fails in his love. It is his own grace, not our desert, which becomes the rule of his conduct. Frequently the poor silly sheep is unconscious of his wants and weaknesses; but doth the Shepherd wait to be informed? Is it needful that they should cry before he relieves? Oh! no. Their need affords the opportunity for the display of his grace; and his own love is the sole motive of all his mercy and tenderness towards them. Precious Shepherd of thy blood-bought sheep! the flock of slaughter? how delightful is it to my soul, that the needy as well as the full, the distressed as well as the strong, the wandering as well as the restored, are the peculiar objects of thy care. I have gone astray, dear Lord, like a sheep that is lost: O seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalms 119:176.
But we must not stop here. The Lord Jesus not only feeds his flock like a shepherd; but in the act of feeding, the food with which he feeds them, infinitely surpasseth all other sustenance: for he not only feeds them in his ordinances, by the ministry of his word, with the discoveries of his grace, the precious nourishment of the gospel; but he himself gives them to eat of the hidden manna, the bread of life, even his own body and blood, which is meat and drink indeed. And his language is, Eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved. Reader! doth not your very soul cry out, in the contemplation of this unequalled love of the Lord Jesus, Lord! evermore give me this bread. John 6:27-58. Oh! dearest, merciful, gracious Redeemer! feed my soul with the manifestations of thy glory - give me to see what thou art in thyself, what thou art to thy people, what thou hast done for thy Church, and what relation thou standest in to them! Feed my soul with the communications of thy love - let my soul live upon thee in thy pardoning, refreshing, renewing, strengthening, confirming grace. And let the consolation of thy Holy Spirit become the perpetual nourishment of my soul, when, in all his blessed offices, he is taking of thine, and showing unto me.
There is another point to be considered in this delightful verse; and that is the question of the Church: Where Jesus feeds, and where he causeth his flock to rest at noon? by which we may observe, that it is not enough for the seeking soul to know how, and with what sweet and suitable food the Great Shepherd supplies the necessities of his flock, but where the seeking soul is to come. To this the answer is direct: wherever the pure and unadulterated gospel is preached, and gospel ordinances are faithfully administered, there the Redeemer hath promised his presence, wherever two or three are met in his name. Matthew 18:20. There he will be found of them that seek him. And also under the noon of persecution, the noon of temptation, the noon of affliction, or any other season of trial, like the scorching heat of a sultry day, in a dry and barren land, where no water is; there Jesus hath his resting places, and deeply exercised souls may find a sweet resting place in him, through the everlasting covenant love, and faithfulness of the Father; the justifying blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the powerful efficacy, strength, and aid of God the Holy Ghost. This is the rest (saith the Prophet, in allusion to all these grand things) wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing; Isaiah 28:12. Reader! do you seek with the Church to the Great Shepherd for this resting place? Here set up thy rest in the faithfulness of Jehovah, against all the accusations of conscience, the charges of Satan, the arrest of justice, and the curse of God's broken law. This is what my soul would plead, in the double plea, of the sovereign grace of God the Father's covenant love, and God the Redeemer's justifying blood and righteousness: and sure I am, as Job justly argued; God will not plead against me with his great power, when he hath put the strength of his own salvation in me. There, in Jesus's finished work, the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered forever from my Judge. There can be no ground for fear of a condemnation from God the Father; while my soul stands clothed and justified before him in the appointed and approved righteousness of God the Son. See Job 23:6.
If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.
Some have thought, that this answer is given by the virgins or daughters of Jerusalem: but, not to remark that it is a little unlikely, that young converts should better know where Christ is to be found, than elder believers: it should seem to be much more probable to be the answer of the Lord Jesus himself: for the promise is, Before my people call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24. And, Reader! do not fail to observe, how sweetly and affectionately Jesus speaks to his Church, and by what endearing names he calls her. Remark, then, that however black, in their own eyes, believers appear; yet, in Jesus's view, they are fair. But do not forget to connect with this view the sole cause, namely, because they are beheld by him in his robe of righteousness, and made comely from the comeliness he hath put upon them. Oh! precious Jesus! is this thy love, thy matchless, unparalleled love, to make souls that are in themselves black, fair in thy loveliness, and then to admire them for thy own graces!
But, Reader, observe further in this verse, how very gentle the rebukes of Christ are, for the ignorance of his people. It is as if he had said, After so many evidences as I have given thee of my love in my communion with thee, and manifestations towards thee, art thou ignorant where to find me? As he said to Philip, Have I been so long time with thee, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? John 14:9. Reader! call to mind that scripture in all thy moments of doubts, and fears, and ignorance. He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. Isaiah 42:3; Matthew 12:20.
The latter part of this verse, in the direction of Jesus, is as plain as it is precious, and as refreshing as it is important. The flock, to which the spouse is directed, can mean no other than the whole body of Christ, his Church, which the Father hath given him, and which is the purchase of his blood. The Shepherds here spoken of, are the ministers, the under pastors of the fold, such as are faithful in the work and doctrine, and correspond to such as the Lord promised he would give Pastors after his own heart, which should feed them with understanding and knowledge. Jeremiah 3:15. And by the footsteps of the flock, evidently are intended the several ordinances and means of grace. And perhaps the kids refer to the case of young believers; so that our Lord Jesus directs his people in this verse to search out a pure ministry of his Holy Word, that their souls may be fed and nourished, and built up in their most holy faith; that whether they are babes in Christ, or young men, or fathers in God; the soul-reviving, soul-refreshing truths of his holy gospel may be their daily food.
I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots.
I beg the Reader to be particularly careful in his observations on the very tender appellations which pass between Jesus and his Church. It is, indeed, one of the most distinguishing features of this delightful book; and as, more or less, he will meet with such in every chapter, and many times in the same Chapter, I do desire once for all, that he will mark it down as an object of great note. Indeed the Church and her spouse seem, at times, to labour for expressions, as if to excel the commendations of one another: nor is this to be wondered at. - How dear soever to a truly awakened believer the Lord Jesus is; yet we must conclude, that in love, as well as in all other things, Jesus hath the preeminence. If we love him, it is because he first loved us. I hope, Reader, that we both love Him, on account of his Person, his love to us, his suitableness to us, the manifestations he hath made of Himself to us, our union with him, and our communion from him. But when I call to mind the source of his love, the commencement of his love, the nature of his love, the quality of his love; the extent, the power, the degree, the unchangeableness of it; and, if possible more than all, the unmerited freeness, fulness, and sovereignty of it, bestowed upon such objects as we all are by nature; I fall down under the conviction, that His love is a love that passeth knowledge. Ephesians 3:14-19. This verse affords a beautiful example of it, in the rich similitude the Lord makes of his spouse, the Church, (made up of the whole body of believers), to that of a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots. To a mere English reader, it might seem but a coarse kind of compliment, the comparison of men to horses; but when it is considered, that the manners of the East were very different from ours; that no animals were so highly prized as their horses, which were always on gaudy days adorned with trappings of gold and the costly jewels: and yet, more particularly to our present purpose, when it be recollected, that the dressings of the horses were exactly as is said in this place of Christ concerning his Church; The neck with chains of gold, and the cheeks made comely with rows of jewels; the objection is lost in the elegance and beauty of the similitude.
And if the Reader considers for a moment, how many striking qualities may be supposed in the character of Pharoah's horses, which, by way of illustration, point out the loveliness and value of the Church in the eyes of her husband; the figure will appear very striking and instructive.
We read in 1 Kings 4:26 that Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots. Will not the abundance be considered as no unapt representation of Jesus's army, which no man could number. Revelation 7:9. And if we calculate the price of each, which, in another part of that same scripture we are told cost 150 shekels of silver (2 Kings 10:29), which, supposing the shekel at the lowest value to be but equal to three shillings of our coin, makes the whole stud of horses to be somewhat more than eight hundred and eighty thousand pounds of our money; although the figure falls infinitely short, because the purchase of our redemption cannot be calculated with corruptible things, such as silver and gold; yet it may serve to show the justness of the application that souls purchased with a ransom so inestimable as the blood of Christ, are more valuable in Jesus's eye than Solomon's costly horses were in his. But these are not all.
No doubt the horses in Pharaoh's chariots were picked out and selected; paired, if one may so say, in size, colour, form, shape, and strength. And is not this a beautiful allusion to the people of God, who are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, the objects of Almighty grace? Moreover, the qualities of horses in their order, discipline, trainment, management, and the like, bear no unapt resemblance to the regularity of Christ's household. And the distinguished place the horses in Pharaoh's chariots held beyond the common labouring horses of the field, may illustrate the peculiarity of that exalted situation believers in Christ enjoy, who wait chiefly upon the service of the Lord, and live in the presence of the King of kings. And lastly, to mention no more, when we consider what care, what attention the horses in the chariots of Pharaoh had shown them, above the ordinary run of others; we may, without violence to the figure, say, that here is represented somewhat very striking of the superintendence shown the Lord's people in the service of angels, and ministers, and providences, and grace; and above all, the care over them by the Lord himself, who watches over them night and day, lest any hurt them. Isaiah 27:3. Precious Redeemer! am I a part in this gracious view to which thou hast compared thy Church? Didst thou indeed purchase my poor soul with so great a price? Didst thou set thy love upon me at the first. Hast thou adorned me with thy coverings, and now dost thou set me apart for thyself and thy glory? Oh! for grace, not to recompense such unequalled bounty, for that is impossible; but to love and adore such matchless mercy, that being bought with a price so dear, I may glorify thee, my God, in my body and in my Spirit which are thine. 1 Corinthians 6:20.
Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.
The Bridegroom is still going on with commending the beauty and loveliness of his bride as she appeared in his eyes. For, notwithstanding the consciousness she had of her own blackness and deformity, yet to him she appeared most lovely, from the comeliness he had put upon her. Ezekiel 16:14. The Reader cannot need much recollection here to see the justness of the expressions in reference to every redeemed and truly regenerated believer. For when a soul is washed in Jesus's blood, and clothed in Jesus's righteousness, the imagination is not able to conceive how surpassingly beautiful that soul must be found! But concerning the particular parts of the believer which are here spoken of as adorned, the cheeks and the neck; perhaps it is not so easy to determine the exact reference. Some have thought, that as the neck is immediately joined to the head, it is intended by the expression to show the nearness to Jesus, the head of his body the Church. And others have thought, that it hath respect to the special grace of faith, since by faith we apprehend and lay hold of Christ. And by the adornings with jewels and gold; (though I beg the Reader to observe that these words are not in the original, but are supplied by the translator): it hath been supposed also, that the ordinances and means of grace, which certainly are highly ornamental in the Christian walk of faith, Jesus intended to convey his approbation of the Church's diligent use of them. But whether these things are intended or not, nothing can be more evident, from the whole construction of the verse, than that Jesus was looking upon his spouse with complacency and delight. As if the Lord had said, How lovely art thou in my sight! I behold thee as the purchase of my blood, and the gift of my Father. Everything about thee, which is mine, I am pleased with. The gifts and graces of my Spirit, which I have imparted to thee, give a comeliness to thy countenance, which is graceful like rows of jewels; and I have united thee to myself as with chains of gold: - such and so fair art thou in my eye. Reader! oh! how blessed is it to be thus seen by Christ, and to be loved by him from our interest in him, and our union with him!
We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.
I desire the Reader to remark with me the alteration that is here made in the language of the Speaker. All that went before is delivered by one person, and is in the singular number. But here, it is as if by more than one, and is in the plural. And what can this mean, but that Jesus, as the Speaker, promiseth in his own name, and jointly in the name of the Father, and the Holy Ghost with himself, to give his Church the blessings here spoken of. Let the Reader recollect a similar form made use of at the creation: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Genesis 1:26. And so again at that glorious vision the Prophet saw; Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Isaiah 6:1-8. Let the Reader further recollect the commission Christ gave to his Apostles in the moment of his departure, when committing his blessed gospel into their hands, that they should go forth and baptize in the joint name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 28:19. And let the Reader call to mind at the same time the Holy Ghost's words by Paul the Apostle, when blessing the Church; in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Ghost. 2 Corinthians 13:14. Let the Reader bring all these scriptures into one point of view together; and then let him determine for himself, whether we are not to consider what is said in this verse; We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver, as the covenant engagements of all the Persons of the Godhead to the Church in Jesus, that she shall be blessed with all spiritual blessings of God in Christ Jesus the Lord. Ephesians 1:3. I need not enlarge on that part of the verse, in inquiring what those blessings are. No doubt the borders of gold and studs of silver mean to include all blessings, temporal, spiritual, eternal. Everything, and every state, shall be sanctified and blessed: for God having chosen the Church in Christ, and Jesus having married the Church to himself, and washed her from all the filthiness, and from all her idols; the Holy Ghost hath made her, and, will make her a glorious church not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:27.
While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.
At this verse the Church takes up the conversation. And as her Husband had spoken so graciously of her, she now breaks out in commendation of him, and his loveliness, and condescension. By the King, there can be no question who is meant; it could be none but Jesus. By the table, may be understood, either the covenant of grace, the scriptures of truth, the several ordinances of the gospel, or his providences, dispensations or the like: - and as it is said to be his table, no doubt it is intended to express that all are his, and of his own do his people give him. The spikenard is a beautiful figure to represent the state and exercise of a true believing soul. Naturalists tell us that it is a poor, little, contemptible shrub in itself: but yet by a process when made into an ointment, it is most costly and highly esteemed, both for its fragrancy and virtues. And is not this strongly expressive of the soul? When sunk by sin, how low, how despised, and even offensive in the sight of holy angels. But when washed in the blood of Christ, and made comely in his comeliness, how beautiful and graceful to every beholder! By the Church's expression of her spikenard sending forth a fragrancy while Jesus is sitting at his table, and she with him, is meant to imply what a blessed frame the soul is in, when the graces, which the Holy Spirit hath planted in the heart, are called forth into exercise by the presence of her Lord, similar to the effects wrought on some sweet flower of the garden or field, which, while the sun shines upon it, and melts by its beams the fine oil of its foliage, the air becomes impregnated with the odour; so the Lord Jesus, shining in upon the graces he hath given to the believer, brings forth the sweets thereof in the life and conversation all around. Thus Mary's spikenard is recorded with peculiar honour, as a token of her love which she poured on Jesus's feet. And it was at supper at the table when this was done; which should seem to refer to this very scripture; John 12:3. What a beautiful view doth this verse afford, both of the graciousness of the Redeemer, and the happiness of the soul when living under the immediate enjoyment of his presence. He saith himself, that be stands at the door, and doth knock; and that if admitted there shall be a mutual feast. He will sup with his people, and they shall sup with him. Revelation 3:20. And so it is, indeed, for while his grace flows out to them, their exercises of faith, and love, and hope, and desire, are all going forth to him, and upon him, and while blessings come down, praises go up; and all his goodness and his glory is made to pass before them. I must not quit the verse before that I have first observed that some have thought that the Church meant by her spikenard her Beloved, her Jesus: and if so, the expression is still more interesting: for then it is as if the Church had said, While my Lord and King sitteth at his table, my Redeemer who is to me all that is blessed and costly, sendeth forth all his fragrancy. He is the whole of the enjoyment. He is the Altar, the Sacrifice, and the Sacrificer in the sanctuary. And he is the glorious Head, and Provider of the whole feast at his table. Everything here is of Jesus. Everything is in Jesus. Everything is from Jesus. And everything to Jesus. He is the Lord my Righteousness. And he is made of God to me wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification and redemption; that according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.
A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts. (14) My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.
I bring both these verses into one view, for the sake of making one observation answer for both. A bundle of myrrh, and a cluster of camphire, are intended to convey the same thing, namely, the infinite riches of the Person and work of Jesus; and that everything in him is abundant and as the richest clusters. Myrrh is well known as a rich spice. It formed a principal ingredient in the holy ointment. Exodus 30:23. And perhaps in allusion to this, in the anointings of the Holy Ghost, the Church is said to be perfumed with it, when coming up out of the wilderness. Song of Solomon 3:6. And no doubt the Person and sacrifice of Christ is precious to the soul as myrrh, while we consider that Jesus in his oblation of himself to God, for the salvation of his people, offered himself for a sweet smelling savor. Ephesians 5:2. But though, no doubt, by the church's comparing Christ to a bundle of myrrh, might well be understood those and numberless other things in reference to the loveliness of Jesus; yet I rather think in this place is intended by the expression, an allusion to Christ in his sufferings. Myrrh was given to Jesus in the offered vinegar; and the bitter taste that there is in Myrrh, might be well suited to convey this idea. Hence, under this view, there will be a double meaning as suited to the representation of Christ; for both in his sufferings and all-sufficiency, Christ is altogether precious to his people: and the church might very properly call him a bundle of myrrh, for a fulness of every blessing, both in doing, and dying; both in himself, and in all his offices, characters, and relations is in him, and she might well say, that he should lie all night between her breasts; intimating the closest communion as an object of all others most desirable, during the whole night of her pilgrimage state, until the light of that everlasting day-break in upon the soul which shall have no night. And perhaps the church might allude in this expression of Christ's laying all night betwixt her breasts, to the two Testaments, the old and the new, where indeed Christ may be said to lie, and where he is discovered by his people; for these are strictly and properly the breasts of the Church: so, in like manner, the cluster of camphire, though the figure is different, yet the subject is the same. The gopher (which some have thought means the Cyprus pine, and others the Cyprus tree, and others the grapes of Cyprus, and some the dates or fruit of the Palm-tree), hath a beautiful allusion to Christ: for the sweet savour and medicinal qualities intended to be denoted by the expression, are all applicable to Jesus. Our Lord himself takes himself the same figure, John 15:1. And indeed, when we add to these several considerations, that the word Gopher hath another meaning distinct from all, and, literally might be translated atonement; in this sense there is an uncommon beauty in the thought, and the Church's view of Christ under this character, is very striking. Engedi, it is said, was a remarkable spot for the production of Palm-trees. But we must not dismiss those verses until that we have particularly remarked that special right of appropriation which the Church makes in both, of Jesus as her own. In the former, she calls him her well-beloved; and in the latter, she repeats the same as her beloved. Reader! in every way, and in all points of view, Christ is lovely. What he is in himself, and what he is to his people; all is lovely. But faith finds a great sweetness when she can say, My beloved is mine, and I am his. Oh! for grace to know this, and to enjoy it; that while Christ is the only begotten Son, and well beloved Son of the Father, he may be our truly beloved also, the altogether lovely, and the chiefest among ten thousand.
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes. (16) Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.
I include in one reading these verses, because the beauty of them is in my apprehension, heightened in being read together. The former, I conceive to be the words of Christ: the latter, those of his Church. Both are introduced with a behold, as if to intimate their importance, Jesus speaks of the fairness of his love; and he repeats it for her comfort: and he ascribes to her the eyes of the dove.
There is a vast comprehension in those few words to show the complacency and delight which Jesus hath in the person of his people, Christ himself is fairer than the children of men, for grace is poured into his lips: Psalms 45:2. And as Christ and his Church are one, through his comeliness, which he hath put upon her, she is lovely also. But what is particularly intended to be set forth by the a scribing to the Church doves' eyes, is not perhaps so easy to determinate. It hath been supposed by some that the ministers of the gospel are thus represented; for their office is to be eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame: to go in and out before the people, and to act as stewards, watchmen, and guides, to the Lord's Zion. But whether there be a peculiar reference to them, or a general reference to all the redeemed of the Lord, the representation is alike beautiful; for the eye of the dove is supposed to be chaste, and meek, and gentle; not beholding so much the blemishes of others, as earnest in humbleness to discover her own. The weeping eye of a penitent is suited also to the dove; for the Prophet describes holy mourners as the sorrowful dove of the valley. Ezekiel 7:16. And in another part of this Song the Church describes the eyes of her Lord, as by the rivers, washed with milk and fitly set. Song of Solomon 5:12. But if Jesus commends her love under these characters as a perfection of beauty, the Church, with all suited humbleness, takes his own gracious words and makes application of all that is truly lovely to him in the verse that follows; and to her view Jesus is all in all: as God and as man, and as both God and man in one person. She beholds him as the disciples beheld him, when he manifested forth his glory and they believed in him. John 2:11. She adds, as a further commendation, that he was pleasant; meaning, no doubt, that everything in him, and on him, was blessed to her soul: his cross, as well as his crown; his Person, blood, righteousness; all his promises, his providences, doctrines, ordinances, people, interest, communion, fellowship, exercises; yea, all belonging to Christ, and in Christ. The bed here spoken of, and which is said to be the mutual property, both of Christ and his Church, may probably mean the human nature; but some have supposed it refers to Zion herself. Certain it is, that it must have respect to what both parties are equally interested in. In this the Church is equally so with Christ, by virtue of her connection with him; for he is the Head of her body the Church, the fulness of Him that filled all in all. Ephesians 1:23. The greenness of it may be designed to set forth the everlasting verdure and fruitfulness of the Church in Christ. The seed of Christ are promised by Jehovah to spring up in the gospel Church as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. Isaiah 44:4.
The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.
The same thought is pursued in this verse, as in the former. The house is said to be their joint-property; and the parts of it are described under images suited to the Eastern manner, of the best and most durable materials. And whether we consider the house here spoken of, to mean the Church above, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens: or the house Christ himself hath builded, which is his Church; and which house (as the Apostle said)) are we - the sense is the same. Everything in Christ, and of Christ, is firm, sure, and everlasting; and from the union and oneness between Christ and his Church, all that belongs to Him as Mediator is the property of his Church. Believers have communion with his Person, his name, his righteousness: - all he is, he is for his people; all he hath wrought, is for them; all he is now engaged in is for them; all he is gone to take possession of; is for them, and in their name. Oh! the preciousness of Jesus. All are your's, (saith an Apostle), and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's. 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1Co_2:16.
READER! what sayest thou now thou hast gone over the first chapter of this incomparable hymn? Is it to thee what the title terms it, The Song of Songs? And is it of thy Solomon, thy Jesus? If so, shall we not join in singing it here upon earth, until we come to the everlasting hallelujahs of heaven? Yes! surely I would say for you, and for myself, Let Jesus kiss us with the kisses of mouth, for grace is poured into his lips, and he will communicate life, and grace, and pardon, and salvation unto our souls. And oh! that you and I may kiss the Son, for his love is indeed better than wine. Never was it known, that the highest cordial of wine recovered the dead; but thy love, blessed Jesus, can, and will recover sinners, that are dead in trespasses and sins: and surely thou, dearest Lord, as the virgins found, so have we known, that thy name surpasseth, in fragrancy and in odour, the richest ointment. Every name of thine is dear to a poor sinner: neither can a poor exercised soul of thine be so sadly circumstanced, but that thou hast a name suited for his case; and thy name, through faith in thy name, is the universal relief for all the maladies of thy people. Draw me then, thou dear Redeemer, with the cords of a man, with the bands of love, and every heart will run after thee. Surely the Lord the King hath drawn me into the chambers of his love, of his grace, his everlasting covenant, Oh! Lord, I will remember thee; I will be glad in thee; I will hail thee under all thine endearing characters, offices, and relations for thou art the Lord our righteousness.
And now let me tell the daughters of Jerusalem, and all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth, of the grace, and mercy, and loveliness of my Lord. I am, indeed, in myself a poor, black, fallen son of Adam, but Jesus hath made me comely in his comeliness, and adopted me into his family; so that I, that in myself merited hell, am made in him an heir of heaven. Oh! do not look upon me, then, as I once was, but as I now am. Behold me in Christ, and be not angry with me.
But, Lord, I turn to thee. Tell me where thou feedest thy sheep here in this wilderness. I know, Lord, that thou art the Lamb in the midst of the throne, feeding the church above: but I know also that thou art not less attentive to the humblest and poorest of thy family here below. Feed me, Lord, a poor weather-beaten lamb of thy flock, and bring me home at length to thine everlasting fold.
Reader! mark what Jesus hath directed the church in this place: If we are at a loss any time to know where Jesus feeds his flock like a shepherd, let us seek out for a faithful, pure, and gospel ministry. Here let us sit under the word, and be very diligent in the use of means and ordinances. Here let the kids, that is, our little ones also, the children of our houses and families, be brought beside the Great Shepherd's tents in the congregations of the faithful, and the Lord will bless and own his word to his people.
And, Reader! let us, with humble reverence, look up, and implore the fulfillment of this blessed promise of the Father, Son; and Holy Ghost; that, from their joint love, and joint agency, we may have indeed borders of gold, with studs of silver. Hail! holy, undivided; Three in One, the LORD Jehovah! do thou regenerate our souls, and form them anew in Christ Jesus. Creating work, and renewing work, and refreshing work; all, all is thine. Lord! carry on and complete thy work, unto the day of thy coming.
Be thou then, thou blessed Jesus, all and everything our souls can possibly need or require: and while thou sittest at thy table, and art handing to my soul thy bread in secret, my soul will go out in desires after thee, as the fragrant smell of the spikenard; for surely thou art to me more refreshing than myrrh - more healing than camphire. Thou art more fair than the morning, more lovely than the sun rising, even in a morning without clouds. May my soul live to thee, walk with thee, rejoice in thee; and be thou my portion, and mine everlasting rest, in time, and to all eternity. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://pro.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34