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Chapter 1 Verse 16
Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant; also our bed is green.
church having heard her own praises in the former verse, and being conscious to herself of her sins and infirmities, and that what beauty was in her came from her beloved; she, as it were, breaks in upon his discourse, and ascribes it all to him; and it is as if she should say, Dost thou say that I am fair? thou only art eminently, essentially, and originally so; for all the beauty which I am possessed of, as it is by way of eminency in thee, so it is derived from thee; therefore the praise of it is not due to me, but to thyself, to whom be all the glory. In these words,
I.The same thing is asserted by the church concerning Christ, which he had asserted concerning her in the former verse; “behold, thou art fair, my beloved.”
II.An addition to it, “yea, pleasant.”
III.That their bed, which belonged in common to them both, “was green.”
I.The same thing is here asserted by the church concerning Christ, which he had asserted concerning her, and that much in the same manner. For,
1st, The title which he gave her is, “my love,” and that which she here gives him is, “my beloved.” They seem, not only in these two verses, but indeed throughout the whole Song, to be, as it were, attiring to outdo each other in their mutual expressions of love; but this title has been already explained on verse 13.
2dly, She asserts of this beloved of hers in the very same words, that he is fair; she returns it to him, to whom she judged it more properly belonged; whose beauty is natural and essential, hers not so; his original and underived, but hers derived from him; his infinite, inconceivable, inexpressible, and transcending all others, but hers of an inferior nature. Now her returning the same commendation back to Christ, shews that she not only looked on her beauty as far inferior to Christ’s, and not to be mentioned with it; as also that it was derived from him; and that if she was in any sense comely, it was through that comeliness which he had put upon her; but likewise it shews her modesty and humility, as well as the nature of true faith, which gives all the glory of what the soul is, or has, to Christ and his grace; its usual and common language is, “not I, but the grace of God which was with me, and it is by the grace of God I am what I am.” Now Christ may be said to be fair,
1st, As he is man; and so he is, both in body and soul, that body which was prepared him by the Father, and which was in an unspeakable and surprising manner conceived in the Virgin’s womb by the power of the Holy Ghost, as it was free from sin, so was no doubt free from all the blemishes and defects of nature; and in this sense, as well as in some other, may he be said to be “fairer than the children of Adam;” and more especially he was so at his transfiguration, when “his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light;” though what with sorrows and sufferings, with tears, dust, sweat, and blood, “his visage was marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men;” yet now being raised from the dead, and exalted at his Father’s right hand, is beautiful and glorious; for that same human nature, which here below was the ridicule of men, is now the wonder of angels; that head which “was crowned with thorns, is now “crowned with glory and honor;” and that face which was spit upon, will be the delightful object of the saints” everlasting vision, after the resurrection morn; when with their bodily eyes they shall gaze on the glory of Christ’s human nature, who they “shall see for themselves, and not another:” in short, Christ’s glorious human body will then be the pattern and exemplar, to which our bodies shall then be fashioned and made like. Moreover, as he is fair in his human body, so likewise in his soul; the powers and faculties of which act in an agreeable order, nothing being misplaced, nor any disorder in the whole frame or contexture of it, being free from all sin, and full of every grace: holiness here appears in its beauty, and knowledge and wisdom in their perfection; all which were manifest and evident throughout the whole of his life. In short, the whole human nature had an immeasurable unction of the Holy Spirit, on the account of which he is said to be fairer than others; he was “anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows;” grace was poured plentifully into his lips, from whence it freely dropped like “sweet smelling myrrh.”
2dly, He may be said to be fair, as God-man and Mediator, which I suppose is chiefly designed here; for as such, this branch of the Lord is exceeding beautiful and glorious in the eyes of believers. For, 1. The glory of all the divine perfections is resplendent in him; as such, he is “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person;” all God’s creatures, works, and actions, shew forth the glory of his perfections in some measure; but they are no where so clearly discerned, nor so gloriously displayed, as they are in the person and office of Christ as Mediator; for “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” is given us in the face, or person of Jesus Christ; and a glorious, delightful, and ravishing sight it is to a believer. 2. There is a mediatorial glory which he is possessed of, which makes him look exceeding fair and beautiful; this is what was given him before the world began, when he first entered into covenant with his Father, became our surety, and was set up as the Mediator of God’s elect; which, when he had finished his work, he desired might be given to him, that is, might be more clearly manifested, and a greater display of it given to the world, and is what shall feed the eyes of his saints with wonder and pleasure to all eternity. This is what Christ desires that they may be with him for, namely, “to behold his glory,” for then indeed shall they “see him as he is:” now, in the glass of the gospel, saints behold a great deal of the glory of Christ Jesus, which gives them much pleasure and delight; but this is but little in comparison of What they shall be everlastingly indulged with. 3. Christ appears with much fairness and beauty to believers, as he is possessed of all grace; this was the glorious and soul-ravishing sight which the evangelist John, together with others, had of him, which he takes notice of, saying (John 1:14), “we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth;” and what makes it still more delightful is, that all this grace is treasured up in him for them, that they from “his fullness may receive, and grace for grace:” there is every thing in him that souls want, and every thing they want they may have from him, for “he is of God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption,” which consideration must needs render him fair, beautiful, and delightful in the believer’s eye. 4. Christ is fair in believers eyes, in all he is unto them, or has done and suffered for them; their souls are delighted in the views of him, as their prophet to teach and instruct them, whose “lips are like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh” of gospel doctrines, counsels, and promises; as their priest, who by his active and passive obedience, has made full satisfaction to the righteous law, an atonement for their sins by his blood, and is now interceding for them in heaven, and therefore, his “hands are as gold rings set with the beryl; and his legs as pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold;” and as their king, to rule, govern, protect and defend them, whose head “is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.” Moreover, he is exceeding fair and beautiful in their eyes, considered in all the relations he bears to them; as he is their indulgent Father, their tender husband, loving brother, and faithful friend; and so he is to them, in all that he has done and suffered for them: it is an exceeding delightful sight to view him undertaking their cause, espousing their persons, assuming their name, bleeding and dying in their room and stead, arising again as a victorious conqueror sitting at God’s right hand, where he ever lives to make intercession for transgressors.
3dly, The same word behold, is prefixed by the church to this commendation, as was to the other by Christ, as wondering at that beauty she saw in him, and that one so fair should take any notice of her; and being affected with his glory herself, she stirs up others to a contemplation of it; for all have reason, upon a view thereof, to say, “how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty,” (Zech. 9:17).
II.She not only asserts the same of him as he had done of her, but also makes an addition to his character, saying, “behold, thou art fair, yea pleasant.” This shews the exceeding great value and esteem that she had for him, and that she found it difficult to find words fully expressive of his excellency; and indeed all words fall short of expressing his worth. She was not contented with the former commendation of him, and therefore adds another word, striving, as it were, to exceed him in her commendations. They were not mere words of compliment she used, for her heart and affections went along with them; nay, she labored under a difficulty of finding out words, apt, strong, and full enough to express the real and just sentiments of her mind concerning him, and therefore, as she thought one word was not enough, she adds another, “yea, pleasant.” 1. The person of Christ is so to a believer: He looks pleasantly upon believers with an eye of love and grace, “his eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of water, washed with milk, and fitly set” upon them, He does not look upon them in a frowning, furious, and angry manner, but as having the greatest respect for, and taking the greatest delight in them; and whilst they are enabled by faith to view him with love in his heart and smiles in his countenance their souls are filled with an universal pleasure; for if it is “a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun” in the firmament, it is much more pleasant to behold the “sun of righteousness arising with healing in his wings; to see our acceptance in his person, pardon, through his blood, justification by his righteousness, reconciliation with God through his atoning sacrifice, and every needful supply of grace from his infinite fullness: O how pleasant must Christ be to a believer under all these sweet considerations! 2. Christ’s covenant and promises are exceeding pleasant to them. What can be a more delightful sight, than to view Christ as the Mediator, surety, and messenger of the covenant of grace; to see all the blessings, and the “exceeding great and precious promises” of it, all secured in his hands; as also their interest in it, and in him as their covenant-head? so that they can say, as David did (2 Sam. 23:5), “although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this; all my salvation and all my desire, although he make it not to grow;” it is this will give satisfaction and content, under all the troubles and exercises of life, and fortify against the fears of death. 3. The doctrines of Christ are pleasant to believers. “Pleasant words are as an honey-comb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones;” such are the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus, the doctrines of the everlasting gospel; these are sweeter to a believer’s taste than “the honey, or the honeycomb;” they are saltitary and nourishing, and therefore valued by him more than his necessary food; he often, with Jeremiah, finds these words, and eats them, and they are to him “the joy and rejoicing of his heart.” 4. The ordinances of Christ are pleasant to them. The commands of Christ are far from being grievous, his “yoke is easy and his burden light;” all his tabernacles are amiable and lovely, his “ways are ways of pleasantness, and his paths are paths of peace,” especially when they enjoy his presence, have communion with him, and are assisted by his Spirit in an attendance on them. 5. Christ’s company and conversation are exceeding pleasant and delectable; no fellowship like “fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” This is the believer’s peculiar privilege, his sole delight, and the matter of his glorying: no presence like the presence of Christ, “in whose presence is fullness of joy; and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore.” Communion with angels, and fellowship with saints, must needs be very pleasant and delightful to believers; but not to be compared with the enjoyment of his presence, who is the head of angels, and the king of saints; this is the saints” comfort here, and will be their eternal happiness hereafter.
III.Having thus given this great and glorious commendation of her beloved, she asserts that their bed, which was common to them, and which made for the glory of them both, green; also our bed is green: where we are to consider, 1st, What this bed is. 2dly, Whose it is. And, 3dly, What is said of it.
1st, It will be proper to inquire what is meant by this bed. R. Solomon Jarchi observes, that the tabernacle and temple were called so; and for this purpose cites Song of Solomon 3:7, 2 Kings 11:2, 3, and so it is explained in Yalkut. Theodoret170170In loc. thinks that the scriptures are here intended, which are oftentimes the instrumental means of begetting souls to Christ (see James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). But it seems better to understand it of the church itself, and the seat of it; where Christ and believers comfortably rest together, enjoy sweet fellowship and communion with each other, and where many souls are begotten and born again; for “of Zion it shall be said, this and that man was born in her.”
2dly, Whose bed is this; she calls it our bed, which denotes a mutual property and interest that Christ and believers have in the church; it is what the Father has given him, which he has purchased with his blood, and is the author and maker of; “behold his bed, which is Solomon’s:” this he has chosen for his rest, solace and refreshment, saying, “this is my rest for ever, here will I dwell.” Moreover, it is the bed which believers have a right to, and therefore are admitted to all the privileges of it; here they enjoy the presence and company of Christ their beloved, they have an interest in him; therefore the apostle says, “if Christ be yours, all things are yours.”
3dly, It is said of this bed. that it is green, that is, flourishing and fruitful; so the word is used in Daniel 4:4, Psalm 52:8, and 37:35, and intends either, 1. The fruitfulness of the saints in grace and holiness, who being “planted in the house of the Lord, flourish in the courts of our God,” as trees of righteousness, which are filled and laden with the fruits thereof; which is owing to the refreshing dews and influences of divine grace. Or else, 2. The numerous increase of converts in the church; and so the Targum and R. Sol. Jarchi explain it: and it may be an allusion to a custom used in the eastern nations, in strewing the nuptial bed with green leaves and flowers; and with the Latins, torus, a bed, is so called from tortis herbis171171Isidor. Originum,1. 20. c. 1. from herbs writhed and twisted together, and put under the shoulders of those that lay on them; and it was usual to strew them with green herbs, grass, and leaves of trees.172172Vid. Alstorph. de lectis veterum, c. 1. p. 1, 8-10. Graminei tori, Val. Flac. 1. 8. 5:255. Viridante toro confederat herbae, Virgil AEneid 5. 5:388. In medio torus est de mollibus ulvis impositus lecto, Ovid. Metamorph. 8. 5:685. A numerous increase of converts, which makes the bed, the church, look so green and flourishing, was frequently promised and prophesied of in the Old-Testament; and had a glorious fulfillment in the first dawn of the gospel, when three thousand souls were converted under one sermon; and will be gloriously and completely fulfilled in the latter day, when the church shall say, “the place is too strait for me, give place to me that I may dwell.”
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