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Chapter 1 Verse 15
Behold, thou art fair, my love: Behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves” eyes.
church having spoken in the three former verses of the glory, excellency and sweetness, which she saw and experienced in Christ; he reassumes his part in this verse, and sets off the fairness and beauty of the church. In which,
I.Is a general assertion that she is fair; “Behold, thou art fair, my love: Behold, thou art fair.
II.A particular instance of her beauty given; “Thou hast doves” eyes.”
I.Here is a general assertion of her fairness: In which we have, 1st, The thing asserted, that she is fair. 2dly, An “ecce, a behold,” prefixed to it; “behold thou art fair.” 3dly, A loving character given, “my love.” 4thly, The assertion repeated.
1st, The general assertion is, that she is “fair;” not on the account of her good works, or any righteousness performed by her, which is as filthy rags and “an unclean thing,” as the Targum and R. Sol. Jarchi interpret it; but on the account of her being clothed with Christ’s righteousness, washed in his blood, and sanctified by his Spirit, as has been shewn on verse 5.
2dly, To this general assertion is prefixed an ecce a behold; which is sometimes, 1. A note of attention; and may be here designed to stir her up more seriously to consider her own beauty, which she had in and from him: believers are too apt to keep their eyes upon their blackness, sins and imperfections, which fills them with sorrow, weakens their faith, and inclines them to diffidence; and though a consideration of this is sometimes necessary for the humbling of our souls, and the magnifying of divine grace; yet we should not have our eyes so fixed upon these things, as to be unmindful of and not regard our perfection, completeness, beauty and comeliness, we have in Christ, who is both our “sanctification and our righteousness.” 2. It is sometimes a note of admiration: Christ here, setting forth the greatness and excellency of the church’s beauty, is introduced wondering at that “comeliness” which he himself had put upon her, she being in his eyes “the fairest among women;” and much more reason have we to wonder at it, that we who are “by nature children of, wrath,” whose natures are corrupted and depraved, who are both by actual and original sin, black, uncomely and deformed, yet are now fair and beautiful in Christ, through his blood and righteousness; that we, who were clothed with the rags of sin, are now arrayed with “the sun of righteousness; that we who were cast out into the open field, to the loathing of our persons, in the day that we were born, yet now should be clothed with raiment of fine linen, silk, and broidered work,” and be adorned with bracelets, chains, jewels, and earrings; O stupendous grace! astonishing love! 3. It is sometimes a note of asseveration; and may be so used here, to assure her of the truth of what he asserted concerning her. Believers are very apt to call in question their fairness and completeness in Christ; and to indulge themselves in fears, doubts and unbelief about it, especially when they consider how full they are of imperfections, sins and spots; in the view of which they are very hardly brought to believe, that they are “all fair, and there is no spot in them:” Christ therefore to remove his church’s doubts and fears, banish her unbelief, and strengthen her faith, uses this way of speaking.
3dly, Christ gives his church here a very affectionate title, “my love,” which has been already considered and explained on verse 9 and is here mentioned again to let her know, that she was still the object of his love, pleasure, and delight that his love towards her was great, strong, lasting, and unchangeable; as also how much his heart was ravished with her.
4thly, This assertion of Christ’s, respecting the church’s beauty, is repeated, “behold thou art fair;” which repetition is, 1. To shew the exceeding greatness of it: she was “fair, fair,” that is, exceeding fair; no such beauty to be found in any as in Christ, he is “fairer than the children of men;” and next to him is the church; she is “the fairest among women;” it is a superlative, surpassing and excelling beauty that she is possessed of. 2. It being repeated, shews the reality of it; this is inward and real, and not merely outward, nor painted: outward favor is deceitful, and natural beauty is vain; but such is not the church’s, which is supernatural, spiritual, glorious, and perfect. 3. It manifests the great value and esteem which Christ has for her, and her beauty, and how much he desired it; none so beautiful in his sight as she is; nor any beauty so desirable to him as hers; his thoughts are fixed upon, his eyes are sweetly delighted, and his heart surprisingly and divinely ravished with it; therefore he repeats it here and elsewhere, again and again in this Song. 4. It is repeated to shew that she was both inwardly and outwardly fair; she was fair, both with respect to justification and sanctification.
II.He gives a particular instance of her beauty, “thou hast doves eyes,” or eyes like doves:163163µynwy dyny[ oculi tui velut columbarum, Pagninus, Munster, so Ben Melech. her eyes are taken notice of, because much beauty lies in the eyes, either in the size or color of them;164164So Juno, Minerva and Chryseus, are described by their eyes in Homer, Iliad. 1. verse 99, 206, 551. and the eyes of doves are observed, because of some distinguished properties in them: the dove is a creature which furnishes out much matter for poets, which they apply to lovers.165165Vid. Barthii animadv, in Claudian. in nupt. Honor, od. 4. 5:21. By her eyes may be meant, either,
1st, The ministers of the gospel; who are that to Christ’s body, the church, as eyes are to an human body; and what Job says of himself, may, with as much justness, be applied to them: “I was,” says he (Job 29:15), “eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame;” and the apostle seems to intimate this in 1 Corinthians 12:16-21. Now these may be called the church’s eyes, 1. Because as the eyes are placed in the eminent part of the body, so are ministers set in the highest post and place in the church; and therefore are said (1 Thess. 5:12), to be over others in the Lord; and it is as necessary and proper that they should be so, as it is, that the eyes should be in the head. 2. As the eyes are set there to watch and observe lest any hurt comes to the body, so ministers of the gospel are placed in the church for much the same purpose; for this reason they are frequently called watchmen, and their business represented to be a watching for or over the souls of men committed to their care, and to give them warning and notice of any danger that is like to befall them; of which we have instances both in the Old and New Testament (see Isa. 52:8, 62:6; Ezek. 33:7-9; Heb. 13:17; 2 Tim. 4:5). 3. They may be called the church’s eyes, because they pry, search into, and make a discovery of gospel-truths to others; for which reason they are called the “light of the world,” and more especially are the lights of the church: they are the stars which Christ holds in his right hand, and. maker. use of to hold forth the “word of life” and light to others; they shine not in their own, but in a borrowed light; they receive all from Christ; they would not be capable of looking into and discovering the precious truths of the gospel, nor be able to shew to others the way of salvation, did not the Spirit of truth, oJdhlh>sei, go before, lead the way, and guide into all truth. 4. As the eyes observe, order, and direct the members of the body in their several actions; so the ministers of the gospel, being appointed inspectors and overseers, observe the life and conversations of the members of the church; and if any thing disorderly appears, in a proper way correct, admonish, and reprove them for it; they make it their business to teach the whole church all things which Christ has commanded; to guide, direct, and instruct them how to behave themselves in their whole walk and conversation, both in the church and towards them that are without.
Now these eyes of the church may be very fitly compared to doves, 1. For clearness and perspicuity; the eyes of doves166166Frantz. hist. animal sacra, par. 2. c. 15. are clear and sharp, sighted, so are ministers to search and penetrate into gospel-truths: it is with much more clearness they behold, and plainness they deliver gospel-truths now, than they could under the legal dispensation; and there is a time coming, when they shall do it with much greater evidence and perspicuity, when “the watchmen shall see eye to eye;” though in this imperfect state we know but in part, and prophesy but in part, and see through a glass darkly, in comparison of that light and evidence, in which those glorious truths shall appear to all believers in another world. 2. For their sincerity and simplicity; when Christ sent forth his disciples to preach the gospel, he bid them be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves:” those who are his faithful ministers, act with all simplicity and godly sincerity, and dare not, “as many, corrupt the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak they in Christ:” they use no artful methods to conceal their principles, and bring off persons from the plain truths of the gospel into a reception of erroneous doctrines; but they are such who have “renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth, commending themselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God:” they are exceeding careful and jealous lest souls, who are under their care, and are made their charge, should by any means be “corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 3. For bringing in the olive-leaf of the gospel; Noah’s dove brought an olive-leaf in its mouth, which was an indication that the waters of the flood were abated: the ministers of the gospel bring the good tidings of good things; they publish salvation by Christ, and bring the news of peace and pardon by his blood, justification by his righteousness, life through his death, and acceptance in his person. 4. For those dove-like gifts of the Spirit, with which they are endowed, and by which they are qualified for that work which they are called unto; there are diversities of them, of which one and the same spirit is the author, and these being given unto them, make them able ministers of the New Testament; so that they become both useful and beautiful. The Jews167167Yalkut ia loc, interpret those eyes of the Sanhedrim. Or else,
2dly, By the church’s eyes may be meant the eyes of “her understanding being enlightened” by the Spirit of God; and more especially the eye of faith, by which a soul takes a view of Christ’s glory, fullness, and suitableness, and looks unto him alone for life and salvation; which may be compared to doves eyes: 1. For the clearness and perspicuity of it; the dove, as has been already observed, is a quick and sharp sighted creature; the eve of faith penetrates into those things “within the veil,” brings distant things near, and makes unseen things manifest unto the soul; for it is “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen:” the things which the eye of nature and carnal reason could never take cognizance of, are observed by faith; whose object is an unseen Christ, and the invisible things of another world, which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.” 2. For its singleness and simplicity in looking only to Christ: the dove168168Plin. 1. 10. c. 34. AElian. Hist. animal.1. 3 c. 5. 444 is an exceeding chaste and loving creature to its mate; the eyes of doves look only to their mates, to whom they keep an inviolable chastity: faith looks only to Christ, and nothing else; it looks only to his person for acceptance with God, and not either to its duties or its graces; it looks only to Christ’s righteousness for justification, and not to its own works, whether they be moral or evangelical, works done before or after conversion; it looks only to his blood for pardon and cleansing, and not to its tears of humiliation and repentance; it looks not to its frames, nor grace received, for its supply and support, but to an all-sufficient and inexhaustible fullness of grace in Christ: now this is the pure, single, and chaste look of faith, which is so pleasant and delightful to Christ Jesus. 3. For finding out, and feeding upon the pure and wholesome doctrines of the gospel: the dove169169Frantz. Hist. animal facr. par. 2. c. 15. singles out and feeds upon only pure seed and grain, and rejects all other, as not being agreeable and proper food; so a believing soul cannot feed and live upon any thing; he cannot live upon the husks which swine eat, but upon the “wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ;” any food will not do, none but the “bread of life and the hidden manna;” it is the earnest desire of such a soul, that the “life which he lives in the flesh, might be by the faith of the Son of God;” he would always live on Christ and with Christ, and cannot be satisfied with any thing short of him; for having once tasted “that the Lord is gracious,” he evermore desires this bread. 4. For the exceeding beautifulness of it an Christ’s eye; as the eyes of doves are beautiful and delightful, so as this eye of faith to Christ, his heart is even ravished with it; “thou hast ravished my heart,” says he, in chapter 4:9. “with one of thine eyes:” Christ’s eyes, for the beauty and glory of them, are said to be, in chapter 5:12. “as the eyes of doves; by the rivers of water, washed with milk, and fitly set;” and so are the church’s here; nothing more beautiful than the eye of faith. 5. For the meekness and humility of it; doves eyes are meek and humble, not fiery, fierce, and furious, as some creatures”, nor proud and lofty as others. Faith is a low and humble grace, it takes nothing to itself, but ascribes all the glory to Christ; it renders the disposition of a soul possessed of it mild and meek, not fierce and cruel, for “faith works by love:” a fiery temper, and a furious disposition do not become a believer; nor is it either excited or encouraged by faith; which promotes a meek, humble, and lowly spirit, of which Christ, the object of faith, is the best example, who says, “learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart;” who checks the furious, and resists the proud, but takes delight and pleasure in the humble soul, whose eyes are up unto him alone.
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