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Chapter 4 Verse 3
Thy lips are
like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy
temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
these words Christ proceeds to give the fourth and fifth instances of the church’s beauty; and says,
I.That her “lips are like a thread of scarlets” etc.
II.That her “temples are like a piece of a pomegranate.”
I.Her lips are compared to a thread of scarlet. The Targum on this place, by eyes, understands the princes and wise men of Israel, who sat in the Sanhedrim, and enlightened the world; by the hair, the rest of the people of the land, in verse 1. by teeth, in verse 2. the priests and Levites, who offered the sacrifices, and eat the holy flesh; and by lips here, the lips of the high priest, who (as the Targum expresses it) by his prayer on the day of atonement, changed the transgressions of the people of Israel, which were like to a thread of scarlet, and made them white as wool: It is a received tradition among the Jews464464Yoma, C. 6. s, 8. in Mishap. that when the scapegoat was sent into the wilderness, a scarlet thread was tied to the temple-door, and when the goat was come to the wilderness, the scarlet thread turned white; which was not only a sign of the goat’s arrival thither, but also a token to them of the remission of their sins, according to Isaiah 1:18. “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow:” and they tell us465465Talmud Yoma, fol. 39. 2. that this scarlet thread ceased turning white forty years before the destruction of the temple; which was about the time that Christ, the great sacrifice for sin, was offered up. R. Aben Ezra thinks, by the eyes are meant the prophets, who in scripture are called seers; by the hair, the Nazarites; by the teeth, the strong and mighty men; and by the lips here, the singers, who sung the high praises of God. R. Solomon Jarchi expounds it, of the beauty and comeliness of the lips, in making and keeping promises; as the spies did to Rahab the harlot, whose token to know her house by, was a line of scarlet.
Lips are the instruments of speech; and by the church’s lips here, are meant her words, which the following expression,: and thy speech is comely,” manifests and confirms; which are compared to a thread of scarlet; to a thread for thinness, and to a thread of scarlet for color; for these two things, thinness in substance, and redness of color, are the beauty of the lips: thin, red lips being beautiful, as well as white teeth; so the beautiful Aspasia had red lips466466AElian. Var. Hist. 1. 12. c. 1. and teeth whiter than snow; hence we sometimes read of red and purple lips;467467Ceilea purra, Theocrit. Idyll. 15. Purpureis labellis, Ovid. Amor. 1. 3. c. leg. 13. Labiasque modicas purpurantes, Apul, Metamorph.1. 10. Labella rosea, Catullus. and which were not only expressive of beauty, but of health, and of a sound constitution. Now by the church’s lips, or words, are meant, either,
1st, Her prayers: Christ’s prayers are, in Psalm 21:2. called the request of his lips; and so may the church’s prayers, and every believer’s, be called the request of their lips; which may be compared to a thread of scarlet, 1. For thinness: The prayers of believers are not filled with great swelling words of vanity, but with humble confessions of sin; bewailing the corruption and depravity of their natures; earnestly imploring views of pardoning grace, and the discoveries of God’s love to their souls; acknowledging that they are unworthy to receive the least mercy and favor at the hand of God, but deserve the severest strokes of his justice, and the highest instances of his displeasure: they do not address the throne of grace with vanity and pride, but with an humble boldness, and oftentimes under a great deal of brokenness of soul; being conscious of their own guilt, and filled with a sense of God’s majesty and greatness; was it not for the mediator Christ Jesus, and his precious blood, which is carried within the veil, and his spotless righteousness, which they are allowed to plead, they durst not presume to approach the divine presence; they do not exalt themselves, and magnify their works of righteousness, nor extenuate their sins and transgressions, but are silent in the one, and frankly acknowledge the other, with all their aggravating circumstances; they do not act like the proud Pharisee (Luke 18:11-13), who “stood and prayed thus with himself; God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican; I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess;” but like the poor publican, who stood afar off, and “would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner:” the lips of the publican, in this prayer, were like to a thread of scarlet, 2. For their constancy, and continuance in them: the prayers of believers are like one continued thread of scarlet; no sooner are souls born again, but behold they. pray; and they continue, or at least ought to continue praying souls all their days. Christ spoke a parable to this end, that “men ought always to pray, and not to faint,” and the apostle (Col. 4:2), exhorts believers to “continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving:” not that it is intended, in these places, that persons should always be actually engaged in this duty; but that believers should be often at the throne of grace; and when they are there, be importunate for the blessing they stand in need of; watch for a return of their prayers, and then be as diligent to attend the throne of grace with thankfulness; and when this is the common and constant course of a believer’s life, his lips may be said to be like to a thread of scarlet. 3. For the fervency of them: the scarlet color may denote the ardency, warmth and fervor of a believer’s spirit in prayer; such a warm, fervent, praying soul was Jacob, who wrestled with God, and would not stir without the blessing, but, “as a prince, had power with God, and prevailed;” and such an one was the Syrophaenician woman, who would take no denial from Christ; and such an one was Elias (James 5:16-18), who prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not; and again he prayed that it might rain, and the heavens gave ram; for the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much:” now when believers are thus fervent and importunate in prayer for the mercy or blessing they want, then may their lips be said to be like a thread of scarlet. 4. Because a believer’s prayers are all tinctured with the blood of Christ, and so become like a thread of scarlet: they are all presented through Christ’s mediation, being perfumed with his much incense; a believer does not put them up in his own name, but in the name of Christ; he pleads not his own worthiness, but the precious blood of Christ, and expects that they will meet with acceptance only through his mediation. 5. For their acceptableness with God: the scarlet color is the best of colors, and most highly esteemed of; the prayers of the saints being offered up in faith, and in the name of Christ, being presented thro” his mediation, are very acceptable to God; they are pleasant music in his ears, and sweet fragrant odors in his nostrils; he is so far from despising the prayer of the destitute, that he delights and takes pleasure in it; it is like a thread of scarlet to him. Or else, by the church’s lips, we may understand,
2dly, Her praises: as prayer is called the request of the lips, so praise is called the fruit of the lips (Heb. 13:15), as with our lips we pray to God, so with our lips we praise him: and the lips of believers in praising, as well as in praying, may be compared to a thread of scarlet, 1. They are thin, like a thread of scarlet: they are not filled with big, swollen praises of themselves, and of what they have done; a believer takes the advice the wise man gives (Prov. 27:2), “Let another praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips:” he does not speak in the commendation of himself, but of the goodness and grace of God; he praises him for all temporal mercies, for his being, the preservation of it, and for all the mercies of life, which make it comfortable; acknowledging that he is not worthy of the least of the mercies which God has shewn him; and then his praises and thanksgivings rise higher for spiritual ones, for those all spiritual blessings, with which he is blessed in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: how does he adore, admire, and praise distinguishing love and grace, that such a poor, blind, ignorant creature as he, should be called out of darkness into marvelous light! that such a guilty wretch should be justified by Christ’s righteousness from all his sins! That such a filthy creature should be washed and cleansed in Christ’s blood, and have all his iniquities pardoned through the same! that he should be adopted into God’s family, and be made an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ Jesus! how thankful is he for the gospel and the ministers of it, which have brought him the news of, and shewed him the way unto life and salvation by Jesus Christ! and, above all, how thankful is he for Christ, that unspeakable gift of God’s love! Now when the lips of believers, in praising, move in such a strain as this, then may they he said to be like a thread of scarlet. 2. The praises of believers are compared to a thread of scarlet, for the heartiness, sincerity, and affection that go along with them; as they draw nigh to God with their mouths, and honor him with their lips, so their hearts are not far from him; all the while they are praising, the fire of love burns within them; their souls are enflamed with it, and their lips look. Like scarlet, being touched with a live coal from off God’s altar. 3. For the acceptableness of them through Christ’s mediation: our praises, as well as our prayers, must be tinctured with Christ’s blood; they must be offered up by him; for no other way are these sacrifices well pleasing to God, or accepted with him. Or,
3dly, By her lips may be meant the doctrines of the gospel, delivered by her ministers; which are the church’s lips, that “drop as an honey-comb,” and publish the glad tidings of peace, life, and salvation to poor souls. Now these doctrines of grace, delivered by them, may be compared to “a thread of scarlet,” 1. Because they are spun out of the scriptures: all scripture being divinely inspired, qeo>pneusov, breathed by God, “is profitable for doctrine,” as well as for other things” it is the fountain from whence all the doctrines of grace spring; and the Lydian stone, by which they are all tried; for whatever is not according to this “law and testimony,” is not to be received: hence Christ advises to “search the scriptures,” and the noble Bereans are commended for doing so. 2. This scarlet thread of the gospel, being spun out of the scriptures, is smooth and even; there is an harmony and agreement in the truths of the gospel; there is no jar and discord among them: this great trumpet does not give an uncertain sound; the doctrines of it are not yea and nay, contradictory to one another and truth itself, but are all of a piece, like one single “scarlet thread;” there is a close connection between them; they are linked and chained together, and cannot be separated; they look like, and are answerable to one another; there is a proportion or analogy of faith, according to which they are all measured. 3. The great subjects of the gospel are the blood, death, and sufferings of a crucified Christ; we, says the apostle (1 Cor. 1:23), preach Christ crucified:” a crucified Christ was the sum and substance of their ministry; therefore the gospel, and the doctrines of it, may well be compared to a “scarlet thread:” the chief doctrines of the gospel are, that the pardon of sin is procured by Christ’s blood; that he has made peace and reconciliation for sinners by the blood of his cross; that sinners are justified by his blood, and so shall be saved from wrath to come; that Christ sanctifies his people with his blood, and has by it opened the gates of heaven tot them; that it is by that he himself has entered into the holy of holies, and by which saints have a right so to do. Now these are the scarlet-colored doctrines of the gospel; which, 4. Are valuable, precious, and highly to be esteemed of as scarlet; they are comparable to gold, silver, and precious stones; which angels desire to look into, and are by saints preferred to their necessary food; yea, are dearer to them than their lives, or any thing in life; witness the fines, imprisonments, loss of goods, racks: tortures, and death itself, which they have voluntarily and cheerfully underwent for the sake of it: thus her lips are like “a thread of scarlet.”
It is further added, “and thy speech is comely:” which words are exegetical of the former; and manifestly shew what is intended by her lips, namely, her speech; which is said to be comely, that is, graceful, amiable, and to be desired. And so is, 1. A believer’s speech concerning Christ. When believers speak to others of what Christ is unto them; how he is “of God made unto them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption; and of what he has done for them, in atoning for their sins, bringing in an everlasting righteousness, and saving them from sin, law, death and hell; when they speak of the glories of his person, the preciousness and efficacy of his blood, the excellency of his righteousness, and completeness of his sacrifice: when believers speak “often one to another” of these, “he hearkens and hears,” listens as it were to hear what they talk of, and puts it down in the “book of his remembrance,” as being well pleased with it. 2. The speech of a believer is graceful and comely to Christ, when they speak for him, in vindication of his person, people, truths and ordinances; for he says (Matthew 10:32), “whosoever shall confess me before men. him will I confess also before my” Father in heaven.” 3. The speech of a believer to Christ is exceeding grateful and well-pleasing, whether it be in prayer or in praise, as has been already shewn; hence Christ says, chapter 2:14, “let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.” 4. It may intend the gracefulness of a believer’s speech in his common conversation: it being attended “with grace,” “and seasoned with salt, ministers grace unto the hearers;” is not infectious, pernicious and destructive, as the corrupt and unsavory communication of the wicked is; but tends to the pleasure, profit and edification of others.
II.Her temples are next commended in these words, which is the fifth particular instanced in the church’s beauty; “thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.” R. Aben Ezra interprets these words of the priests, who had pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet, round about the hem of the ephod which they wore: but the Targum, on the place, understands by the temples, the king who was the head of the people of Israel, and was fall of good works, as the pomegranate is of kernels; and by the locks, the governors and princes, who were next to him: but it seems more agreeable, that ecclesiastical officers are here intended, whom Christ has placed in his church, to take care of the discipline of his house, as well as to maintain and defend the gospel.
That there is, and ought to be such officers in churches, who have the presiding; ruling, governing power therein, not only the nature of societies requires, but the scripture also does abundantly confirm, more especially the following ones; “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, etc. Obey them that have the rule over you, etc. He that ruleth with diligence,” (1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17; Rom. 12:8). Their work is not only to preach the gospel, and feed the flock with wholesome food; but to admonish, warn and rebuke those who stand in need thereof; to lay on and take off censures, to open and shut the doors of the church, that is, in admission and excommunication of members. Now this power is originally in the church, and only derivatively in them; they are but the administrators of it, in the church’s name: they have no despotical, arbitrary, and tyrannical power, lodged in their hands, to rule at pleasure; but are limited by the taws of Christ, which he has provided for the orderly government of his house, which they are to see put into execution. Now these may be called,
First, The church’s temples.
1st, The temples are called, in the Hebrew tongue, by a word468468dtqr tenuis faciei pars, Marckius; tenuior, Michaelis; vid. R. David Kimchium. in lib. shorash; rad. qqr. which signifies thinness and tenderness; because the temples have but little flesh upon them, and are covered only with a thin skin; which may teach us, 1. That those persons who are called to such a work and office in Christ’s house, though it cannot otherwise be but they must have flesh as well as spirit in them, being men of like passions and affections with others; yet these more especially Ought not to live in and walk after the flesh; there should be a less appearance of carnality in them, and a greater discovery of. spiritual-mindedness, and of the life and power of godliness in their conversations; therefore the apostle is very particular in giving their characters (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9). 2. It may also teach us, that there ought to be it great deal of tenderness in them, and used by them in the discharge of their work; for in so doing, they are like to be most successful: admonitions and reproofs for sin, mildly and tenderly given, are often kindly taken; they are like “an excellent oil, which does not break the head,” but wins the heart: tender-heartedness is requisite in all Christians, but more especially in officers of churches, who are to deal as tenderly with persons, as surgeons do in dressing wounds, or in setting broken or dislocated bones; hence the apostle, in Galatians 6:1 uses a metaphor taken from them, “you that are spiritual restore,” katarti>zete, joint in, or set in joint again, “such an one in the spirit of meekness;” though it is true, in some cases sharpness is to be used; as when there is a gangrene in a member, which endangers the body, there must be a cutting off, an amputation of the member; so persons, when all means have been tried for their recovery and restoration, and there is no reclaiming them from an error in doctrine or practice; they are not only to be rebuked sharply, but to be cut off from the body, the church.
2dly, The temples are called in Greek, kro>tafov469469Para< to< krotei~n th<n ajfh<n, from the evident beating of the pulse there: now as a person’s constitution may be judged of by the beating of his pulse; so may the constitution of a church by her temples, the officers, in their administration of affairs: if church discipline is neglected, and Christ’s laws are not put in execution against delinquents, the church is in a bad state and in an unhealthful and declining condition; and on the contrary, when officers are lively, zealous and diligent in their work, and all things are kept in a just order and decorum, the church is then in an healthful and flourishing condition.
3dly, The temples are placed between the eyes and the ears; and church officers being called so teaches us that they have need of both in managing the affairs of Christ’s house. Christ indeed, being God omniscient, “shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears;” but we have no other way of judging than by the sight of our eyes, and by the hearing of our ears, and therefore both are to be employed: the ears of the church-officers are to be open, without respect of persons, to rich and poor, high and low; they are to hear complaints and charges exhibited, if introduced in a regular manner, and then the evidence to support these complaints and charges; they must also hear the answers of the person or persons accused and complained of, and must not shut their eyes against clear light and plain evidence.
Secondly, These temples are said to be “within the locks;” under locks of hair plaited and curled about them; expressive both of secrecy and beauty: which may teach us, 1. That admonitions, in case of private offenses, ought to be given privately, according to that golden rule given by our Lord (Matthew 18:15-17), “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone;” let no one know it before thou hast told him, and let none be with thee when thou dost; “if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother;” therefore for ever after never speak of it to others, nor upbraid him with it; “but if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established; and if he shall neglect to hear them,” matters being thus prepared, “tell it unto the church;” and then thou shalt have witnesses to support and make good thy allegations. This rule is so plain and easy, that one would think, none could mistake or go aside from it; and was it but closely adhered to, would prevent a great deal of scandal and reproach that is cast upon religion, as well as a great many disturbances, occasioned in churches by the neglect of it: and in so doing, the church’s temples, in this branch of the administration of discipline, may be said to be within her locks; though it is true, in case of public offenses, admonitions and rebukes are to be given publicly, that “others may fear,” (1 Tim. 5:20). 2. It may also teach us, that all the affairs and concerns of churches ought to be kept private, and not blazed about in the world; their debates and determinations ought not to be told to other churches, unless there is a necessity for it; much less told in Gath, and published in the “streets of Askelon;” for every particular church should be as a “garden enclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed,” (Song 4:12). 3. The temples being within the locks, may denote the humility of church-officers in their work; they lie hid under the hair, the rest of believers; they do not rise up above them, though they are taller and higher than they are in gifts and grace, as well as by virtue of their office and station in the church; yet they are, in their own esteem, “less than the least of all saints:” they do not assume to themselves a domination and lordly power “over God’s heritage;” they. do not impose their sentiments upon churches for final determinations in cases; but humbly submit themselves, preferring the judgment of the church to their own private ones; they be.. come “all things to all, that they may save some.” 4. May be expressive of the beauty of church-discipline: that church appears very beautiful, like the “temples within the locks,” where the gospel is faithfully preached, the ordinances purely administered, and the laws of Christ’s house strictly regarded. Believers, who walk together in the order, as well as in the faith of the gospel, appear very beautiful, stately, and magnificent to spectators: they are “like a company, of horses in Pharaoh’s chariot;” or like a garden, with a variety of flowers, well weeded and taken care of; or an “orchard of pomegranates,” well dressed and managed: on the contrary, a church, in which no regard is had to order and discipline, is like “the field of the slothful, and the vineyard of the man void of understanding,” which is all overrun “with thorns and nettles,” its fence and ‘stone-wall being broken down.”
Thirdly, These temples are said to be “like a piece of a pomegranate; not of the tree, but of the fruit, the shell or rind being broken; so the Septuagint render it.470470zwm rh jlnk aJv leJpuron rjoa~v, Sept. sicut fragmen mali punici, Vulg. Lat. & Montanus. The land of Canaan was a land of pomegranates; they grew there in great plenty, and therefore are frequently mentioned in this Song.
1st, The fruit, when the shell, or rind is broken, appears to be full of grains or kernels, and therefore is a pomegranate: and it is the nature of this fruit, that if it hangs long on the tree after it is fully ripe, it will burst and open of itself,471471T. Bab. Zebachim, fol. 88. 2. & Gloss. in ibid. and its kernels will become visible: one of the mansions of the Israelites is called by them Rimmon-parez, Numbers 33:19, the pomegranate of rupture, or the burstened pomegranate, where probably they found such. And the church’s temples are said to be like to such a burstened and broken piece of a pomegranate, that is full of kernels, and visible; because those who are called to such work and office in the church, as has been mentioned, should be men “full of the Holy Ghost,” as Stephen was; they should be as full of the gifts and graces of the Spirit, as the pomegranate is of kernels, that they may be capable of discharging the work aright: Christ knows full well that they stand in need of such, and therefore, as he has “received gifts for men,” so he “gives them to men;” to qualify them for the work of the ministry, and for the well-ordering and governing of his churches; and yet, notwithstanding all that they receive, they are obliged to say, with the apostle, “Who is sufficient for these things?” And as they should be men full of the Spirit, so likewise full of good works; and these visible to men, even as the kernels of a burstened pomegranate;472472So the Jewish writers interpret the words of the Israelites, as full of good works, as the pomegranate is of kernels, T. Bab. Eruvin, fol. 19. 1. and T. Bab. Chagigah, fol. 26. 1. Targum and R. Sol. Jarchi in loc. their “light should shine before men;” they should have a good report of them that are without, and be examples to those that are within; and when they are so, then may the church’s temples be said to be “like a piece of a pomegranate within her locks.” Also the pomegranate, when broken, appearing to be full of kernels, all set in a beautiful order, and joined to each other, may be expressive of that union, harmony, and consent of church-members, with their officers, in acts of discipline; censures are laid and taken off, members are received or rejected, not by some single person or persons, but by the joint consent and unanimous voice of the whole church.
2dly, As this fruit is full of kernels, so, when broken, there springs from it a reddish, purple, sweet and delightful juice hence you read of the “juice of the pomegranate,” chapter 8:2, which the church would cause Christ to drink of; and nothing is more delightful in Christ’s eye, odoros to his smell, and sweet to his taste, than this juice of the pomegranate is; namely, a pure administration of his ordinances, and a strict regard and close adherence to the laws of his house; nay, even to believers themselves, result from hence pleasure, delight and satisfaction.
3dly, The fruit of the pomegranate is very useful in medicine. 1. For repressing the heat of choler, and malignity of fevers.473473Fernel. Method. Medend.1. 5. c. 3. God’s children too often fall out by the way; there are frequently differences and divisions among them: many of them are of hot, fiery and choleric dispositions; do not know “what spirits they are of,” and at every turn are, like the disciples, for calling “for fire from heaven” upon those who have disobliged them. Now officers in churches are like a peace of a pomegranate; they allay and repress these heats, by wholesome advice and proper admonitions; they are instruments in making peace, and reconciling differing brethren; and either remove the causes of contention, or else, with the consent of the church, remove those who are the causes of these divisions and contentions. 2. For stopping the fluxes of the belly:474474Pliny Nat. Hist. 1. 23. c. 6. the pomegranate is of an astringent nature, the kernels bind more that, the juice, and the shell or find more than either; the officers of churches are useful in putting a stop to loose and disorderly practices, by warning, admonishing, rebuking, or withdrawing from those who walk disorderly. 3. For comforting the stomach and bowels:475475Pliny Nat. Hist.1. 23. c. 6. so these officers comfort the children of God; for as they “warn the unruly, so they comfort the feeble-minded, and support the weak,” by directing them to the person, blood, righteousness, and. fullness of Christ Jesus; by delivering the sweet doctrines) and opening the precious promises of the gospel.
Thus church-officers, in managing the affairs of Christ’s house, in conjunction with his church, may be called her temples, which are “like a piece of a pomegranate within her locks;” or her veil476476Vid. Michaelis Not. in Lowth. Praelection. 31. p. 165. as some render at; so Symmacchus, covered with a veil, as her eyes were, verse 1. and here her cheeks; and so the Septuagint render the word in Isaiah 47:2; such veils, covering those parts, were wore by women in the eastern countries) expressive of their modesty; and what was latent, and much out of sight, seemed more beautiful. Likewise the temples, taken in a large signification, not only intend that part of the face, between the ears and eyes) and upwards, but include the cheeks also; and so the Septuagint477477Mh~lo>n sou, Sept. gena tua, Pagninus; genae tuae, Vulg. Lat. & Cocceius. translate the word here: the purple juice of the pomegranate well expresses the color of them, which is their beauty; hence we often read of purple cheeks as beautiful478478Purpureas genas, Ovid Amor.1. 1. eleg. 4. Statii Thebaid, L 1. 5:538. Ausonii Parental 23. 5:16. Purpurissatas genas, Apuleii Apolog. p. 239. a pomegranate cut affords a very agreeable resemblance of a beautiful cheek; and in Talmudic language, as Jarchi observes the cheeks are called ypad ynmwr the pomegranates of the face. And these being compared to “a piece of pomegranate within her locks,” may denote her modesty, shamefacedness, and beauty. 1. Her modesty: the cheeks are the seat thereof, and being within her locks, give the greater evidence of it. The church of Christ, or believers, are very humble and modest; they think the worst of themselves and the best of others, and so take the apostle’s advice (Phil. 2:3). “Let each esteem other better than themselves:” they are apt to think every saint has more grace and less sin and corruption in him than they have, and esteem themselves the least of saints and the chief of sinners; they frankly acknowledge that all they have, and all they are, is owing to the grace of God; that whatsoever they have, either of nature or grace, whether temporal or spiritual, they have received from him; and whatever they are, they say it is by the grace of God they are what they are; they do not envy the gifts and grace of God, which are bestowed on others, but could wish, with Moses (Num. 11:29), that “all the Lord’s people were prophets;” yet they could be glad of more themselves, and are not puffed up with what they have, and therefore are far from despising others who are inferior to them; they are willing to be instructed by, and receive admonition from the meanest saint: they are very sparing in speaking of themselves; like their dear Lord, their “voice is not heard in the street;” and, when they do open their mouths, it is not in commendation of themselves and their own righteousness; but in lamenting the depravity and pollution of their nature; in acknowledging the imperfection of their obedience, and that when they have done all they can, they are but unprofitable servants. 2. Her shamefacedness and blushing; which is elegantly set forth by the broken piece of the shell or rind of the pomegranate, tinctured with the red and purple juice thereof: a believer oftentimes blushes before God under a sense of sin, and especially when committed against love, grace and mercy; thus we read of Ezra, in Ezra 9:6. that he was “ashamed and blushed to lift up his face to God, because that grace had been shewed them from him; and he had left them a remnant to escape, and had given them a nail in his holy place, and had extended mercy to them in the sight of the kings of Persia;” and yet, after all this, they had forsaken his commandment: it is this which cuts and grieves a believer’s heart, and fills his face with shame and confusion; and never more is he put to the blush, than when he views sin in the glass of pardoning grace and pacifying love, according to Ezekiel 16:63. “That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee;” then are their checks like a piece of a pomegranate within their locks, or under a veil; they blush when no eye Sees them, and for that which none ever saw or could charge them with: and whenever they are charged with or reproved for sin, they have not a brow of brass to outface the charge, but soon discover their consciousness of guilt by the blushing of their countenance. Moreover, whenever they cast their eyes upon their own righteousness, they are ashamed of it, it being nothing but filthy rags, and “as an unclean thing;” and oftentimes, when they come into Christ’s” presence, not having that holy boldness and confidence of faith in him, they hang their heads, and dare not so much as lift up their eyes to him; wherefore he says to them, as in chapter 2:14. “Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely;” and that in order to remove their fears, cheer their souls, and encourage their faith. 3. Her beauty: when a pomegranate is broken, there appears a reddish juice, like blood, as Pausanius479479Boeotica, sive1. 9, P. 578. remarks; interspread between the white kernels, which gives a lively idea of her beauty; she being, as she says of her beloved, “white-and ruddy,” and so a perfection of beauty: her modest dress and blushing looks; her temples or cheeks being within her locks, or under a veil; and these like a piece of a pomegranate, made her extremely beautiful in Christ’s eye. Modest and humble souls he fixes his eye on, and delights to dwell with; to these he will give more grace, and will beautify them yet more with his salvation.
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