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Chapter 5 Verse 13
cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers:
his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.
these words are the fourth and fifth particular instances of Christ’s beauty; for having described him by his head, locks, and eyes, she here describes him by his cheeks and lips; still keeping in a beautiful and regular order in her description of him. And,
First, She describes him by his cheeks; which, she says, “are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers:” by which we are to understand, not the smooth and naked cheeks, but with hair growing upon them, which best suits with the metaphor of a bed of spices; for as aromatic plants and sweet-smelling flowers bud out, and spring up from a bed of spices, and make it look very beautiful; so the hair of a man’s beard puts itself forth, and grows upon his cheeks, or jaws,691691wyyjl maxillae ejus, Pagninus, Montanus, Marckius, Michaelis. as the word may be rendered, and makes him look very graceful and majestic: R. Aben Ezra understands by his cheeks, his beard; as also do many Christian Interpreters.692692Sanctius, Cocceius, Ainsworth, Marckius, Michaelis. And this was literally true of Christ; who was not “an infant of days,” but a man grown up, when he suffered in the room and stead of sinners; as is manifest from his “giving his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to those that plucked off the hair.” The cheeks rising, and being a little elevated, are fitly described by beds in a garden; or fragrant flowers, or fruit trees, reared up in the form of towers, as some render the word, or pyramids; or by a dish of sweetmeats placed in such a figure: and the hair of the cheeks or beard, are aptly represented by spices, rising up from a bed of them; and all denote the beauty, savor and majesty of Christ: or, as the Vulgate Latin version, “as beds of spices set by confectioners;693693Sicut areolae aromatum consitre a pigmentariis V. L. similes sunt areolis aromatum & turribus seplasiariae Officinae, Tigurine version. not as aromatic plants, set in rows by the gardener; but as the spices themselves, set in rows by the confectioner in vessels, or placed in such a manner in his shop to be sold,694694Vid. Fortunat. Schacc. Eleochrysm. Boer. 1. 1. c. 18. p. 90. which being of various colors, especially red and white, the cheeks, for color and eminence, are compared to them. And being taken in a mystical and spiritual sense, may intend, either,
1st, Believers, who are the hair of Christ’s cheeks, as well as of his head: these grow upon him, receive their life and nourishment from him, and are ornamental to him: these are as “a bed of spices and sweet flowers;” for, being “perfumed with the myrrh and frankincense” of his grace, they ascend upwards in the exercise of faith, hope and love, as “towers of perfumes,695695µyjqrm twldgm turriculae pigmentorum, Mercerus; turribus pigmentorum, Marckius; condimentorum, Schmidt, Michaelis. as the words translated sweet flowers may be rendered; they are fruitful in themselves, like a spicy bed, odoriferous to Christ, and delightful to each other. Or else,
2dly, The graces of the Spirit which are in Christ as man and mediator: these, like the hair of a man’s beard which grow upon his cheeks, adorn the man Christ Jesus, and render him very lovely and graceful; these grow in large numbers on him; he is “full of grace and truth;” and though there is a large communication of grace made daily to believers from this fullness which is in Christ; yet it is no way lessened thereby, even as the hair of a man’s beard, which the oftener cut, the thicker and faster it grows. Now these lovely cheeks thus adorned, may be said to be “as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers,” because of their beauty and loveliness; no spicy bed, set and filled with aromatic plants and sweet-smelling flowers, can be more lovely and delightful to the eye of sense, than Christ, with all his grace, is to the eye of faith; the reason why he appears to a believer “fairer than the children of men,” is, because grace, in all its fullness, “is poured into his lips:” also they may be compared to these, because of the sweet odor of them; the effluvias of the sweet flowers and most fragrant spices growing in large numbers, in beds of them, cannot be more grateful to the smell, than the graces of Christ are to believers; and therefore they are compared to ointments, the savor of which cheats the minds, and attracts the hearts of his people to him: this oil of gladness being powered plentifully on his head, runs clown his beard, and so to every part of his garments; which makes them all “smell of myrrh, aloes and cassia;” and renders him, and all that belong, to him, sweet, savory, and delightful to his saints. Likewise they may be compared to “a bed of spices and sweet flowers,” because of the variety of them: as in an aromatic garden there are various beds, and in those beds various spices, plants and flowers; so there is in Christ a variety of the gifts and graces of the Spirit; there are diversities of gifts, and all sorts of grace, which make up that fullness, from whence believers receive grace for grace, Or else,
3dly, This may be expressive of the manliness and courage, prudence, gravity and majesty of Christ; when the beard appears in men like “a bed of spices,” thick and well-grown; it is a manifest indication that they are grown up to the estate of men, and are at years of discretion. Now Christ’s manliness and courage appeared in his boldly refuting the errors of the Pharisees and Sadducees; and in preaching the everlasting gospel, though he often ran the risk of his life in doing it; and to the very last he bore a noble testimony to it, and “witnessed a good confession” of it before many witnesses: as alto he gave a manifest discovery of it at the time of his being “taken by his enemies; as well as in Pilate’s hall, where he was smitten, buffeted, scourged, mocked, and spit on; and yet in the midst of all, discovered the greatest undauntedness and composure of mind; but never more than while he was bearing his Father’s wrath, and the strokes of divine justice, grappling with his and our enemies, and undergoing a painful and ignominious death; for under all this he failed not, neither was he discouraged. His “cheeks being as a bed of spices,” shew him to be endued with manliness and courage, which he thus discovered; as they also show his prudence and gravity, which he manifested in all his discourses, “questions and answers; for “ in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;” for at twelve years of age, when the lovely down scarce appeared upon his cheeks, he discoursed with so much wisdom and gravity, put such questions to the doctors, and returned such answers to theirs, as filled them with wonder and surprise: and much more did he so, when his “cheeks were as a bed of spices;” when he was grown up to man’s estate, and was entered upon his public ministry; he spake with so much wisdom and authority, that his audience was amazed at him; he dealt so prudently, according to the prophecy of him, that the subtle Scribes and Pharisees did not care to meddle with him; for as they could not answer his questions, so they dare not put any to him; his enemies themselves being witnesses, “never man spake like him.” And this prudence and gravity of his appeared throughout the whole conduct of his life; his words were with power and authority; his deportment was grave and serious; and his walk and conversation, as it was in all holiness and righteousness towards God, so it was in all wisdom and prudence towards men.
But if by cheeks, we understand that part of the face as smooth and naked, without the additional consideration of hair upon them; then by them may be meant, either,
1st, The scriptures of truth.696696So Foliot & Tit. vers. in loc. & Carpathius in Sanct. in loc. The Targum understands them of the two tables of stone, which were written in ten lines, like the rows or beds of an aromatic garden, productive of acute and delightful senses; much to the same purpose does R. Solomon Jarchi give the sense of them: but it seems better to understand them of the whole word of God, the scriptures both of the Old and New Testament. These are as it were the cheeks or face of Christ, which represent and set forth the glory of his person, the virtue of his blood, the excellency of his righteousness, and the riches of his grace: these may be said to be “as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers,” being in several distinct plots or beds: for this garden of the scriptures was not thrown up at once, and formed in that beautiful order in which now it is; but first one spicy bed was made, and then another; for “God at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets:” these beds are set with a variety of “exceeding great and precious promises,” and excellent doctrines; which the meditating soul, like the industrious bee, sucks much sweetness from: all those excellent spices, and sweet-smelling flowers which grow here, have their different usefulness; for “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16). And as aromatic plants and fragrant flowers are delightful to the eye, sweet to the smell, and refreshing to the senses, so are these truths and promises; they are like “apples of gold in pictures of silver” to the eye of faith; diffuse a delightful odor to the smell, give a savor of Christ’s knowledge, when and wherever explained; and being held in the hand of faith, refresh all the spiritual senses, and are “the joy and rejoicing of the heart.” Or else,
2dly, By Christ’s cheeks, may be meant his presence with his people, and the manifestation of himself unto them in his word and ordinances. Thus the presence of God is frequently called his face in scripture; as when saints are said to seek his face, or he is said to hide his face from them; which are to be understood of God’s withdrawing his presence from them, and their desire of enjoying it: thus Christ’s presence with his people may be set forth by his cheeks or face; which when they enjoy, they see him in his beauty, behold him in his glory, and are ravished with his love: and this may be said to be “as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers;” for nothing is so desirable and delightful to believers as this; walking in the light of Christ’s countenance, is far preferable to walking among beds of spices, where the most fragrant plants and odoriferous flowers grow; nothing that is earthly and sensual, with all its affluence and pleasure, can so strike the carnal senses, as the presence of Christ does the spiritual ones. Or else,
3dly, The cheeks being the seat of modesty, bashfulness and blushing, may intend the humility of Christ; which appeared in his assumption of our nature, and throughout the whole course of his life, and more especially at his death: and this is a very great ornament to him, and renders him very delightful to his people. How lovely does the meek and lowly Jesus look! how beautiful are those blushing cheeks of his, who, though he was “equal with God, yet was found in fashion as a man!” and though possessed of all divine perfections, and transcendent excellencies, yet always spoke modestly of himself; and did not seek his own, but his Father’s glory, and the good of his people.
Secondly, Which is indeed the fifth particular instance of his beauty, she describes him by his lips; which, she says, are like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh:” lips being the instruments of speech, and those compared to lilies, may be expressive of florid language and eloquence; so Lucian697697In Hercul. Gall. describes the Trojan orators as having a lilian voice, that is, a florid and eloquent one. And by lips, may be meant the words of Christ; which are like lilies, 1. For purity; “the words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times:” Christ’s words are free from all pollution and defilement, from all scurrility and raillery, from all deceit and hypocrisy, and from all human mixtures whatever; and therefore his word is called “the sincere milk of the word.” 2. His lips are compared to lilies for the beauty of them: and I suppose that not white lilies are here meant, but purple or red lilies; of which Pliny698698Lib. 21. c. 3. Theophras apud Athen. Deiphnosophist. 50:15. c. 8. p. 681. So Tertullian speaks of both lilies, that is, the white and red, De Corona, c. 14. speaks, the flower of which, he says, some call the rose-lily; so Maimonides699699In Misn. Shevith. c. 7. s. 6. Midrash Esther, fol. 91. s. speaks of red lilies, by which he interprets drwz the rose; which, he says, have a good smell, and of them it is said, his lips, like lilies, Song of Solomon 5:13 and also R. Alshech on the text: the best of these grew in Syria, in Antioch, and Loadicea;700700Dioscorides an Fortuna. Schacc. Elcochrysm Sacr. 1. 1. c 27. p. 134. so in Egypt. Herodot. Futerpe sixta l. 2. c. 9, and these best suit with lips; for not white, but red lips,701701Rosea labra Martial. roacum os, Virgil. are accounted the most beautiful; and therefore Christ compares the church’s lips to “a thread of scarlet,” in chapter 4:3. There is a beauty and loveliness in all Christ’s words; they are pleasant ones; they are gracious words, or words of grace, which drop from his lips; and indeed how can his lips drop any other? his speech cannot be but always with grace, and with gracefulness, when grace itself is poured into his lips. 3. They may be compared to lilies for the fineness, thinness, softness and delicateness of them: thinness, as well as redness, adds a beauty to the lips: Christ’s voice was not heard, his lips did not move in setting forth his own praises; for he sought not his own, but his Father’s glory; he did not speak for himself, but his words and actions spoke for him; he did as Solomon advised (Prov. 27:2), “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” 4. They may be compared to lilies for the sweet odor of them: Christ’s lips drop “sweet-smelling myrrh; his words, his gospel, and the doctrines of it, diffuse an agreeable savor; to some they are “the savor of life unto life;” and though they are “the savor of death unto death” to others, yet that does not arise from Christ’s words in themselves, but is owing to their being rejected, slighted, and contemned by men. 5. They may be compared to lilies for the glory and majesty of them: Christ says, that “Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of the lilies of the field;” Christ’s words come with authority, and are clothed with power; “the voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is full of majesty,” (Ps. 29:4).
Again, these lips of Christ are said to drop “sweet-smelling myrrh;” for the construction is not with lilies, but with lips; for myrrh does not drop from lilies, but may be said to do so from Christ’s lips: though some702702Schaccus, ut supra, 50:1. c. 28. p. 138, 139. think, the allusion is to crowns, made of red or purple lilies, wore at nuptial feasts, on which were poured oil of myrrh, and so dropped from them; but it is from the lips, and not lilies, the myrrh is said to drop. And here we may consider, 1st, The matter of those words which drop from Christ’s lips, which is said to be as “sweet-smelling myrrh.” 2dly, The manner of the delivery of them, which is dropping.
1st, The matter of Christ’s words is like “sweet-smelling myrrh.” 1. Grateful and acceptable as such; Christ’s lips drop the “sweet-smelling myrrh” of peace and reconciliation to rebellious sinners, pardon to guilty ones, rest to those that are burdened, comfort to the distressed, and life to all his people: this he did in the days of his flesh, and still continues to do by his ministering servants; who are his lips, by whom he speaks, and are thought by some703703Ambros. in Psalm cxviii. octon, 18. col 1047. Psellus apud Theodoret. in loc. Carpath. & Ruin Sanct. in loc. to be chiefly intended here; and so will his lips drop “sweet-smelling myrrh,” the words of eternal life, when he shall say, “come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” 2. His lips drop words, for matter like “sweet swelling myrrh,” preserving from rottenness, putrefaction and corruption: Christ’s words preserve from the corruption of sin; his doctrines are “according to godliness;” they are so far from having a tendency to encourage persons in sin, that they are the best antidote and preservative against it; the doctrines of grace teach us “to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts;” they are the means of implanting and maintaining principles opposite to them: they also preserve from the corruption of false doctrines, which are pernicious to souls, and “eat as do a canker;” but Christ’s words are wholesome ones; and those whose hearts are established with them, are not “carried about with divers and strange doctrines;” nor are they “tossed to and fro with every wind” of error, but retain their steadfastness in Christ Jesus: likewise, wherever Christ’s words come with power, they preserve from going down to “the pit of corruption;” for Christ says that whosoever “keeps his sayings, shall never see death,” that is, the second death.
2dly, The manner of the delivery of Christ’s words; which, as the matter of them is grateful, this is grateful, and is said to be dropping, 1. Gradually, and not all at once: Christ did not speak all at once to his disciples, but by little and little, as they were able to bear it; they had not their light, knowledge and comfort all at once; no more have saints now, nor must they expect it; we are first babes, then young” men, and then fathers in Christ. 2. Seasonably, at proper times, as the wants and necessities of his people require; for “God hath given him the tongue of the learned, that he may know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary,” (Isa. 50:4). 3. Constantly; his lips dropped sweet-smelling myrrh when on earth, and still drop it now he is in heaven; “see that ye refuse not him that speaketh;” that now speaketh, continues to speak, and will do so until all his people are gathered in. 4. Powerfully and effectually; though his words do but drop, yet they drop with power; they make and leave impressions where they drop; they work effectually in them that believe. 5. Yet sweetly and gently; not like hasty and sudden showers of rain, which beat down the grass and corn; but as rain that drops gently and mildly, and so is acceptable to the earth, and makes it fruitful; “my doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew,” etc. (Deut. 32:2). Now this graceful and agreeable manner of his delivery, as well as the grateful matter of his words, render him very acceptable to his church, and shew him to be a most excellent person, and “the chiefest among ten thousand;” which is what she attempts to demonstrate, in this description, to the daughters of Jerusalem. The kisses of Christ’s lips, or the manifestations of his love, may be taken into the sense of these words which are as delightful as sweet-smelling myrrh; see chapter 1:2 and such a sentiment is expressed in the same language by others.704704Olent tua basia myrrham, Martial. Epigr. 1 2. ep. 10.
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