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Chapter 5 Verse 12

His eyes are as the eyes of doves, by the rivers of water,
washed with milk, and fitly set.


first wordis the third instance of Christ’s beauty, or distinguishing character of him, which the church gives to the daughters of Jerusalem, whereby they might know him from others; having described him by his head and hair, she here describes him by his eyes; the order and method in which she proceeds is very just and natural. By his eyes may be meant, either,

First, The gifts and graces of the Spirit which are in Christ. as man and mediator;681681So Theodoret, & Tres Patres apud Ibid, Thorn. Aquin. Beda, & Rupert. in Sanct in loc. who is represented, in Revelation 5:6 as a lamb that had been slain for the sins of men, with even eyes, which are said to be “the seven spirits of God;” not that there are seven-personal, distinct, divine subsistencies, which are called so; but the phrase intends that variety, fullness and perfection of the gifts and grace of that one Spirit of God, who is the third person in the blessed Trinity; which gifts and grace of his, being bestowed on Christ, as man and mediator, furnished and qualified him for his work; of which seven spirits or various gifts of the Spirit, which he received for this purpose, you may read in Isaiah 11:2-4. Now these may be said to be “as the eyes of doves by the rivers of water;” because the Spirit of God did in an eminent and public manner descend upon him, as a dove, at the time of his baptism in the river of Jordan: and they may also be said to be as doves, or as the eyes of doves “washed with milk, to express the purity and holiness of his nature, sanctified thereby; for, as man and mediator, he was holy harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners: likewise they may be said to be as the eyes of doves fitly set, or set in fullness, because the Spirit was not given to him by measure, but in fullness; the whole fullness of the gifts and grace of the Spirit is given to him; and therefore he appears “full of grace and truth,” and from hence they are communicated unto men. Or else,

Secondly, By his eves may be meant the church’s teachers,682682Isidore, Foliot, & Alcuin in loc. & Greg. Nyssen. in Cant. Homil. 13. Ambros. in Psalm cxviii. octon, 15. col. 1009. & Pacilus apud Theodoret. in loc. & Carpathius in Sanct. in loc. They are interpreted of the Sanhedrim, by the Targum and Shirhashirim Rabba in loc. or ministers of the gospel; who, as they are the mouth by whom Christ speaks, so they are his eyes, by whom he sees, provides for, and watches over his church and people; and therefore are called watchmen, whose business is to watch for, and over the souls of men: these are the eyes which give light unto, guide and direct the members of Christ’s body; who-point out unto them the way of salvation, and guide their feet into the way of peace. Now these may be said to be as the eyes of doves, on the account of those dove-like gifts of the Spirit, by which they are fitted for their work, and made able ministers of the New Testament; also for their honesty, faithfulness, and simplicity in preaching the everlasting gospel; and likewise for that harmlessness and innocence, which do and ought to appear in their lives and conversations. These may also be said to be as doves, or as the eves of doves by the rivers of water, which may intend the scriptures of truth;683683The Jews, in Shirhashirim Rabba and in Yalkut in loc. understand by them the waters of the law, and 4:1 as has been there observed; and therefore I choose rather, for as doves delight to sit by rivers of water, so do the ministers of the gospel delight to be reading of, and meditating upon the scriptures, which is their work and business: and from hence they fetch the doctrines they preach to others; they speak according to the oracles of God; and that “not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual,” 1 Corinthians 2:13. Likewise they may be said to be as doves, or as the eyes of doves washed with milk, because of their light and knowledge in the gospel, which is the sincere milk of the word; whereby they are made capable of feeding others with the plain and wholesome truths of the gospel: or else this phrase may intend that pure and spotless conversation, which they ought to lead as examples to others in faith and purity. Whey may also be said to be tidy set; “for God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly” teachers,” etc., 1 Corinthians 12:28, this was the fit and beautiful order in which the first ministers of the gospel were placed by God himself; and indeed all the ministers of it are fitly set in the more eminent part of the body, the church, to overlook, direct, and be useful to the several members of it. But these seem rather to be the eyes of the church, than the eyes of Christ, which also are compared to dove’s eyes in chapter 1:15.

Thirdly, To understand by these eyes, the omniscience of Christ: R. Aben Ezra seems to understand them of God’s omniscience; for his comment is that text in Proverbs 16:3. The eyes of the Lord are in every place. Christ is the omniscient God; every creature is made manifest in his sight; all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do; who is the living word, and a critical discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart: in the days of his flesh here on earth, he needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man; and gave convincing proofs to the Scribes and Pharisees, that he was well acquainted with the secret thoughts of their hearts: Peter bore a noble testimony to Christ’s omniscience, when he appealed to him, saying, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” And indeed was he not the omniscient God, how could he be capable of acting as the head of his church, or as the mediator between God and man, or of judging the world at the last day? but then he will give an incontestable proof of this divine perfection’s being in him; he will let all the churches, and all the world know, that he it is which searcheth the reins and hearts. Now when these eyes of Christ’s omniscience are fixed on persons in a way of wrath and anger, they are said to be as flames of fire; especially when fixed upon heretics, idolators, false worshippers, or any of his and his church’s enemies (see Rev. 1:14, 2:18, 20-23, 19:11, 12, 15); but when they are fixed in a way of special love and grace upon his own people, they may be said to be,

1st, As the eye of doves, which are loving, lovely, clear and chaste, 1. Christ’s eyes may be said to be as doves, because of the lovingness of them; the eyes of doves are not fierce and furious, as the eyes of some creatures are; there are no fury in Christ’s eyes, as fixed upon his people: “The eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;” that is, his eye is upon poor trembling sinners, who come to the throne of grace, and prostrate themselves at his feet, humbly imploring his grace and mercy, and venturing on him as sinners ready to perish; his eye is upon them all the while; not to destroy them, and cut them off from his sight; but to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine: his eyes are upon all his righteous ones; not to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth, which he threatens to the wicked, but to deliver them out of all their troubles: his eyes are upon all creatures, and all things, for they run to and fro throughout the whole earth; but then it is to show himself strong in the behalf of them, whose heart is perfect towards him: his eye of love is always upon his people, to succor, relieve, protect, and defend them: his eye is upon them under all their trials, temptations, desertions, sorrows and afflictions: his eye is upon them when in the furnace, to observe the exercise of their grace upon him, their carriage to him; and when tried, to deliver out of it; for his eyes behold, and his eye-lids try the children of men, 2. They may be compared to dove’s eyes, because they are lovely, as well as loving; and it is for this reason he compares the church’s eyes to doves, in chapter 1:15 and 4:1. Every part of this description serves to set off the beauty and loveliness of Christ’s eyes; they are said to be “as the eyes of doves by the rivers of water,” because doves delight to sit there; where being pleased with the pure and purling streams, their eyes look more quick and lively, and so more beautiful and lovely. Also they are said to be as doves washed with milk; either as milk-white doves, which look very pleasant and delightful; or as doves washing themselves in streams of water, look as clean as if they had been washed in milk: likewise they are said to be as the eyes of doves fitly set; that is, neither too much staring out,684684Vid. Jarchi in loc. nor too much sunk within; neither hollow-eyed nor goggle-eyed, which are both extreme deformities in the eye. 3. They may be compared to doves eyes, because of their clearness and perspicuity; Christ’s eyes are so clear, he is so sharp-sighted, that he can see all persons, and things in all places, at one view; for “the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good:” more especially his eyes behold, and he takes cognizance of his own people; these he knows by name, and distinguishes them in his care and affections from all others; he sees and knows all their wants perfectly well, is able to supply them, and has an heart to do it; and seeing that “all things are naked and open unto him, with whom they have to do at the throne of grace,” they are encouraged to come thither with the greater Boldness; he sees and knows all the contrivances and designs of wicked men against his people, though formed in the dark; for the darkness and the light are both alike to him; his eyes are so clear, sharp and penetrating, that there is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves: and this makes much for the comfort of his people, as well as serves to command and set off the loveliness and excellency of him. 4. They may be compared to doves eyes for their faithfulness and chastity: Christ is faithful to God, who appointed him to be the mediator and savior of his people; and to that covenant of grace which he made with him; in which he promised many things, which are fully performed by him; and he received many blessings of grace for his people, which he is faithful to distribute unto them and bestow upon them he hath given meat to them that fear him, as an indication that his eye is upon, and that he will ever be mindful of his covenant; he has a respect unto it, and therefore calls those by his grace, and brings them to glory, who are interested in it: also as the eye of the dove is only upon its own mate, is faithful and chaste unto it, and has no regard to another; so Christ’s eye of love is only upon his church; as she is his dove, so she is his only one: hence he says, “my dove, my undefiled is but one;” and as he loves her above all others, so he loves none but her with his special and peculiar love, in Which he always rests and continues.

2dly, Christ’s eyes of love, as fixed on his own people, are as the eves of doves by the rivers of water. Now this sets forth the loveliness and beauty of Christ’s eyes, as has been already observed; the eyes of doves being more brisk, quick and lively, when sitting by rivers of water, where they are delighted in and pleased with the clear and running streams thereof: and may also lead us to observe these two things; 1. The fixedness and constancy of Christ’s eye of love being set upon his own people: doves sitting by a river side, keep their eyes fixed upon the purling streams; and in drinking, as Pliny685685Lib 10. c. 34. observes, do not resupinare colla, erect their necks, and lift up their heads, but keeping their eyes fixed upon the water, drink a large draught of it in the manner of beasts: Christ, being sweetly delighted with his own people, has fixed his eye upon them. and never removes it from them; he withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous; his eye was upon them before time, continues so in time, and will be so to all eternity; for having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end, 2. It may intend the object of Christ’s love: some of the Jewish writers,686686Targum & R Sol. Jarch in loc. by the rivers of water, would have their schools and synagogues intended; where the waters of the law flow, the difficulties of it are explained, and its proper senses given: but they may be much better understood of gospel- churches, made up of righteous persons; who are justified by Christ’s righteousness; sanctified by his grace; sprinkled with the clean water of the everlasting covenant; and who have low, mean, and humble thoughts of themselves; on such as these Christ’s eye is fixed, and to these he looks (see Isa. 66:2), here the ordinances of the gospel are administered in their purity, the waters of the sanctuary flow, the doctrines of grace are powerfully preached, and souls hereby much delighted and refreshed.

3dly, These eyes of Christ are said to be as the eyes of doves washed with milk; and this is expressive both of the beauty and clearness of them, as has been already observed: eyes, when washed, are clearest, and so most lovely; like milk-white doves, which look the most beautiful, especially when they have just washed themselves: respect may be had to the color of doves; white doves were had in esteem in Palestine and Syria.687687Alba Palestino Sancta columba Syro, Tibullus, 50:4. eleg. 7. And this may also intend the purity of Christ’s eyes, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, with any pleasure or approbation; and likewise the meekness and mildness of them: his eyes are not red and furious, but look as if they had been washed with milk, being full of mercy, pity and compassion to poor sinners; his heart is full of it, and his actions, as God-man and mediator, give the strongest proofs of his being a merciful as well as a faithful high priest,

4thly, These eyes are said to be fitly set, or fitting by fullness;688688talm ad plenitudinem, Tigurine version, Bochart juxta, Vatablus, so some in Brightman; juxta fluenta plenissima, Vulgate Latin, so the Septuagint, Syriac and Arabic versions. that is, by full channels of water. Christ himself is as rivers of waters, which denote the fullness and abundance of grace that is in him; and by these full fountains of grace, life and salvation, he sits, dwells and abides; and thither he, the lamb in the midst of the throne,” leads his people. Or the words may be rendered, “sitting in fullness;”689689Siti insitione, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. and so it expresses the loveliness and beauty of Christ’s eyes, as has been already observed: his eyes were neither sunk too low within, nor stood too much out, but exactly filled their holes; they were fitly set as diamonds in a ring, or as precious stones in the breast-plate of the high-priest, which exactly filled the cavities which were made for them, and therefore were called stones of fullness (see Ex. 25:7, 28:17, 20); so R. Solomon Jarchi and R. Aben Ezra understand the words; tho’ they may be better translated, “sitting upon fullness”.690690Super plenitudinem Montanus, Mercerus. Christ’s eyes are set or sitting, 1. Upon the fullness of this world; “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness of it;” as he has a right unto it, so his eyes are upon it; for “his eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth;” they are an every place at one and the same time, beholding at one view the evil and the good, all their persons, and all their actions; his eye is upon that vast number of persons and things that fill the whole universe, and upon the large variety of actions performed there: now this sets forth the extensiveness of Christ’s omniscience, and that general and universal knowledge he is possessed of; which sense is much favored by R. Sol. Jarchi’s note on the words. 2. Christ’s eyes were set, or sitting upon the fullness of time in which he was to come into the world, and perform the great work of redemption; for as he was appointed to be the author of this work, and the persons were pitched upon whom he was to redeem, so the time was also fixed when he was to do it; and this is called “the fullness of time,” in Ephesians 1:10; Galatians 4:4; and now, from the first making of the everlasting covenant, down throughout the whole Old Testament dispensation, Christ’s eye was fixed on this fullness; waiting, watching, as it were longing till the time was come, when he should appear in human nature, and do the work which his heart was so much set upon; witness his many appearances in an human form before his incarnation, and the frequent notices he gave of his near approach. 3. Christ’s eyes are set, or sitting upon his fullness, the church, whom in the fullness of time he came into this world to redeem: the church is called so, in Ephesians 1:23, which “is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all;” and then is she, and will she appear to be so, when all his elect ones are called by grace; and these all filled with those gifts and graces of the Spirit designed, for them, by him who is ascended to fill all things; and more especially when they are all grown up in proportion, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: now Christ’s eye is upon his church, and upon every member of it, until all this is done; and will be so when time shall be no more. 4. His eyes were, and still are set, or sitting upon the fullness of the Gentiles, until that is brought in: his eye was upon them in the everlasting covenant; therefore both he and his Father thought fit that he should be not only the redeemer of Israel, but a light to the Gentiles also, and be God’s salvation unto the ends of the earth: his eye was upon them during the Old Testament dispensation; and therefore gave out many promises and prophecies concerning their calling: his eye was upon them when he died and suffered; and therefore he became a propitiation, not for the Jews only, but also for the Gentile world: his eye was upon them when he gave the commission to his disciples to preach the gospel; and therefore bid them “go into all the world, and preach it to every creature;” which he owned for the conversion of thousands: and his eye is still upon them, and will be so, until all those other sheep are brought in which are not of the Jewish fold. 5. His eyes are set, or sitting on his own personal fullness as God; for “in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily:” his eye was upon this when he undertook the work of redemption, and so it was when he was actually concerned in it; therefore he failed not, neither was he discouraged; this supported him under it, and comfortably carried him through it. . His eyes are set, or sitting upon his fullness as mediator; which is a dispensative, communicative fullness put into his hands, to be distributed to his people; and his eye is continually upon it, to supply the wants of his people out of it, under all their straits, difficulties, temptations, sorrows, and afflictions: and where Christ’s eyes are fixed, there should ours be also; we should be continually looking to, and be strong, not in ourselves, but in “the grace which is in Christ Jesus.”



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