|« Prev||Digression I.||Next »|
Some excellencies of Christ proposed to consideration, to endear our hearts unto him — His description, Cant. v., opened.
To strengthen our hearts in the resignation mentioned of ourselves unto the Lord Christ as our husband, as also to make way for the stirring of us up to those consequential conjugal affections of which mention shall afterward be made, I shall turn aside to a more full description of some of the personal excellencies of the Lord Christ, whereby the hearts of his saints are indeed endeared unto him.
In “The Lord our Righteousness,” then, may these ensuing things be considered; which are exceeding suitable to prevail upon our hearts to give up themselves to be wholly his:—
1. He is exceeding excellent and desirable in his108108 Numb. xxi. 5; 1 Cor. x. 9; Ps. lxviii. 18; Eph. iv. 8, 10; Ps. xcvii. 7; Heb. i. 6; Ps. cii. 25; Isa. vii. 14; Luke ii. 34; Rom. ix. 5; 1 Pet. ii. 6; Isa. xl. 3, xliv. 6, xlv. 22, xlviii. 12; Rom. xiv. 10; Rev. i. 11; Mal. iii. 1; Ps. ii. 12; Isa. xxxv. 4, lii. 5, 6, xlv. 14, 15; Zech. ii. 8, 12, iii. 1, xii. 10; Matt. xvi. 16; Luke i. 16, 17; John v. 18, 19, x. 30, i. 1, 3, 10, 14, vi. 62, viii. 23, 58; Col. i. 16; Heb. i. 2, 10–12; John iii. 13, 31, xvi. 28; Mic. v. 2; Prov. viii. 23; John xvii. 5; Jer. xxiii. 6; 1 John v. 20; Rev. i. 18, iv. 8; Acts xx. 28; 1 John iii. 16; Phil. ii. 6–8; 1 Tim. iii. 16; Heb. ii. 16; 1 John iv. 3; Heb. x. 5; John xx. 28; John x. 29–31; Matt. xvi. 16; Rom. viii. 32; John iii. 16, 18; Col. i. 15; John xvii. 10; Isa. ix. 6; Col. ii. 9; 1 Cor. viii. 6, ii. 8; Ps. lxviii. 17. Deity, and the glory thereof. He is “Jehovah our Righteousness,” Jer. xxiii. 6. In the rejoicing of Zion at his coming to her, this is the bottom, “Behold 60thy God!” Isa. xl. 9. “We have seen his glory,” saith the apostle. What glory is that? “The glory of the only-begotten Son of God,” John i. 14. The choicest saints have been afraid and amazed at the beauty of an angel; and the stoutest sinners have trembled at the glory of one of those creatures in a low appearance, representing but the back parts of their glory, who yet themselves, in their highest advancement, do cover their faces at the presence of our Beloved, as conscious to themselves of their utter disability to bear the rays of his glory, Isa. vi. 2; John xii. 39–41. He is “the fellow of the Lord of hosts,” Zech. xiii. 7. And though he once appeared in the form of a servant, yet then “he thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” Phil. ii. 6. In the glory of this majesty he dwells in light inaccessible. We “cannot by searching find out the Almighty unto perfection: it is as high as heaven; what can we do? deeper than hell; what can we know? the measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea,” Job xi. 7–9. We may all say one to another of this, “Surely we are more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. We neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy. Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if ye can tell,” Prov. xxx. 2–4.
If any one should ask, now, with them in the Canticles, what is in the Lord Jesus, our beloved, more than in other beloveds, that should make him so desirable, and amiable, and worthy of acceptation? what is he more than others? I ask, What is a king more than a beggar? Much every way. Alas! this is nothing; they were born alike, must die alike, and after that is the judgment. What is an angel more than a worm? A worm is a creature, and an angel is no more; he hath made the one to creep in the earth, — made also the other to dwell in heaven. There is still a proportion between these, they agree in something; but what are all the nothings of the world to the God infinitely blessed for evermore? Shall the dust of the balance, or the drop of the bucket be laid in the scale against him? This is he of whom the sinners in Zion are afraid, and cry, “Who amongst us shall dwell with the devouring fire, who amongst us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” I might now give you a glimpse of his excellency in many of those properties and attributes by which he discovers himself to the faith of poor sinners; but as 61he that goes into a garden where there are innumerable flowers in great variety, gathers not all he sees, but crops here and there one, and another, I shall endeavour to open a door, and give an inlet into the infinite excellency of the graces of the Lord Jesus, as he is “God blessed for evermore,” — presenting the reader with one or two instances, leaving him to gather for his own use what farther he pleaseth. Hence, then, observe, —
The endless, bottomless, boundless grace and compassion that is in him who is thus our husband, as he is the God of Zion. It is not the grace of a creature, nor all the grace that can possibly at once dwell in a created nature, that will serve our turn. We are too indigent to be suited with such a supply. There was a fulness of grace in the human nature of Christ, — he received not “the Spirit by measure,” John iii. 34; a fulness like that of light in the sun, or of water in the sea (I speak not in respect of communication, but sufficiency); a fulness incomparably above the measure of angels: yet it was not properly an infinite fulness, — it was a created, and therefore a limited fulness. If it could be conceived as separated from the Deity, surely so many thirsty, guilty souls, as every day drink deep and large draughts of grace and mercy from him, would (if I may so speak) sink him to the very bottom; nay, it could afford no supply at all, but only in a moral way. But when the conduit of his humanity is inseparably united to the infinite, inexhaustible fountain of the Deity, who can look into the depths thereof? If, now, there be grace enough for sinners in an all-sufficient God, it is in Christ; and, indeed, in any other there cannot be enough. The Lord gives this reason for the peace and confidence of sinners, Isa. liv. 4, 5, “Thou shalt not be ashamed, neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame.” But how shall this be? So much sin, and not ashamed! so much guilt, and not confounded! “Thy Maker,” saith he, “is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” This is the bottom of all peace, confidence, and consolation, — the grace and mercy of our Maker, of the God of the whole earth. So are kindness and power tempered in him; he makes us, and mars us, — he is our God and our Goël, our Redeemer. “Look unto me,” saith he, “and be ye saved; for I am God, and none else,” Isa. xlv. 22, “Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness,” verse 24.
And on this ground it is that if all the world should (if I may so say) set themselves to drink free grace, mercy, and pardon, drawing 109109 Cant. v. 1; Isa. lv. 1; Rev. xxii. 17; John vii. 37, 38.water continually from the wells of salvation; if they should set themselves to draw from one single promise, an angel standing by and crying, “Drink, O my friends, yea, drink abundantly, take so 62much grace and pardon as shall be abundantly sufficient for the world of sin which is in every one of you;” — they would not be able to sink the grace of the promise one hair’s breadth. There is enough for millions of worlds, if they were; because it flows into it from an infinite, bottomless fountain. “Fear not, O worm Jacob, I am God, and not man,” is the bottom of sinners’ consolation. This is that “head of gold” mentioned, Cant. v. 11, that most precious fountain of grace and mercy. This infiniteness of grace, in respect of its spring and fountain, will answer all objections that might hinder our souls from drawing nigh to communion with him, and from a free embracing of him. Will not this suit us in all our distresses? What is our finite guilt before it? Show me the sinner that can spread his iniquities to the dimensions (if I may so say) of this grace. Here is mercy enough for the greatest, the oldest, the stubbornest transgressor, — “Why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Take heed of them who would rob you of the Deity of Christ. If there were no more grace for me than what can be treasured up in a mere man, I should rejoice [if] my portion might be under rocks and mountains.
Consider, hence, his eternal, free, unchangeable love. Were the love of Christ unto us but the love of a mere man, though never so excellent, innocent, and glorious, it must have a beginning, it must have an ending, and perhaps be fruitless. The love of Christ in his human nature towards his is exceeding, intense, tender, precious, compassionate, abundantly heightened by a sense of our miseries, feeling of our wants, experience of our temptations; all flowing from that rich stock of grace, pity, and compassion, which, on purpose for our good and supply, was bestowed on him: but yet this love, as such, cannot be infinite nor eternal, nor from itself absolutely unchangeable. Were it no more, though not to be paralleled nor fathomed, yet our Saviour could not say of it, as he doth, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you,” John xv. 9. His love could not be compared with and equalled unto the divine love of the Father, in those properties of eternity, fruitfulness, and unchangeableness, which are the chief anchors of the soul, rolling itself on the bosom of Christ. But now, —
(1.) It is eternal: “Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not,” saith he, “spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me,” Isa. xlviii. 16. He himself is “yesterday, today, and for ever,” Heb. xiii. 8; and so is his love, being his who is “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the ending, which is, which was, and which is to come,” Rev. i. 11.
(2.) Unchangeable. Our love is like ourselves; as we are, so are all our affections: so is the love of Christ like himself. We love one, 63one day, and hate him the next. He changeth, and we change also: this day he is our right hand, our right eye; the next day, “Cut him off, pluck him out.” 110110 Gal. iv. 14, 15.Jesus Christ is still the same; and so is his love. “In the beginning he laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of his hands; they shall perish, but he remaineth: they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shall he fold them up, and they shall be changed: but he is the same, and his years fail not,” Heb. i. 10–12. He is the Lord, and he changeth not; and therefore we are not consumed. Whom he loves, he loves unto the end.111111 Mal. iii. 6; John xiii. 1. His love is such as never had beginning, and never shall have ending.
(3.) It is also fruitful, — fruitful in all gracious issues and effects. A man may love another as his own soul, yet perhaps that love of his cannot help him. He may thereby pity him in prison, but not relieve him; bemoan him in misery, but not help him; suffer with him in trouble, but not ease him. We cannot love grace into a child, nor mercy into a friend; we cannot love them into heaven, though it may be the great desire of our soul. It was love that made Abraham cry, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” but it might not be. But now the love of Christ, being the love of God, is effectual and fruitful in producing all the good things which he willeth unto his beloved. He loves life, grace, and holiness into us; he loves us also into covenant, loves us into heaven. Love in him is properly to will good to any one: whatever good Christ by his love wills to any, that willing is operative of that good.
These three qualifications of the love of Christ make it exceedingly eminent, and him exceeding desirable. How many millions of sins, in every one of the elect, every one whereof were enough to condemn them all, hath this love overcome! what mountains of unbelief doth it remove! Look upon the conversation of any one saint, consider the frame of his heart, see the many stains and spots, the defilements and infirmities, wherewith his life is contaminated, and tell me whether the love that bears with all this be not to be admired. And is it not the same towards thousands every day? What streams of grace, purging, pardoning, quickening, assisting, do flow from it every day! This is our Beloved, O ye daughters of Jerusalem.
2. He is desirable and worthy our acceptation, as considered in his humanity; even therein also, in reference to us, he is exceedingly desirable. I shall only, in this, note unto you two things:— (1.) Its freedom from sin; (2.) Its fulness of grace; — in both which regards the Scripture sets him out as exceedingly lovely and amiable.
(1.) He was free from sin; — the112112 1 Pet. i. 19. Lamb of God, without spot, and without blemish; the male of the flock, to be offered unto God, the 64curse falling on all other oblations, and them that offer them, Mal. i. 14. The purity of the snow is not to be compared with the whiteness of this lily, of this 113113 Cant. ii. 1.rose of Sharon, even from the womb: “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” Heb. vii. 26. Sanctified persons, whose stains are in any measure washed away, are exceeding fair in the eye of Christ himself. “Thou114114 Cant. i. 15, 16, iv. 1, 7, 10. art all fair,” saith he, “my love, thou hast no spot in thee.” How fair, then, is he who never had the least spot or stain!
It is true, Adam at his creation had this spotless purity; so had the angels: but they came immediately from the 115115 Eccles. vii. 29.hand of God, without concurrence of any secondary cause. Jesus Christ116116 Isa. liii. 2. is a plant and root out of a dry ground, a blossom from the stem of Jesse, a bud from the loins of sinful man, — born of a sinner, after there had been no innocent flesh in the world for four thousand years, every one upon the roll of his genealogy being infected therewithal. To have a flower of wonderful rarity to grow in paradise, a garden of God’s own planting, not sullied in the least, is not so strange; but, as the psalmist speaks (in another kind), to hear of it in a wood, to find it in a forest, to have a spotless bud brought forth in the wilderness of corrupted nature, is a thing which angels may desire to look into. Nay, more, this whole nature was not only defiled, but also accursed; not only unclean, but also guilty, — guilty of Adam’s transgression, in whom we have all sinned. That the human nature of Christ should be derived from hence free from guilt, free from pollution, this is to be adored.
Objection. But you will say, “How can this be? who can bring a clean thing from an unclean? How could Christ take our nature, and not the defilements of it, and the guilt of it? If 117117 Heb. vii. 9, 10.Levi paid tithes in the loins of Abraham, how is it that Christ did not sin in the loins of Adam?”
Answer. There are two things in original sin:—
[1.] Guilt of the first sin, which is imputed to us. We all sinned in him. Ἐφ’ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον, Rom. v. 12, whether we render it relatively “in whom,” or illatively, “being all have sinned,” all is one: that one sin is the sin of us all, — “omnes eramus unus ille homo.” We were all in covenant with him; he was not only a natural head, but also a federal head unto us. As Christ is to believers, Rom. v. 17; 1 Cor. xv. 22, so was he to us all; and his transgression of that covenant is reckoned to us.
[2.] There is the derivation of a polluted, corrupted nature from him: 118118 Job xiv. 4; Φρόνημα τῆς σαρκός, Rom. viii. 7; John iii. 16. Νοὸς τῆς σαρκός, Col. ii. 18.“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” “That 65which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and nothing else; whose wisdom and mind is corrupted also: a polluted fountain will have polluted streams. The first person corrupted nature, and that nature corrupts all persons following. Now, from both these was Christ most free:—
1st. He was never federally in Adam, and so not liable to the imputation of his sin on that account. It is true that sin was imputed to him when he was made sin;119119 2 Cor. v. 21. thereby he took away the sin of the world, John i. 29: but it was imputed to him in the covenant of the Mediator, through his voluntary susception, and not in the covenant of Adam, by a legal imputation. Had it been reckoned to him as a descendant from Adam, he had not been a fit high priest to have offered sacrifices for us, as not being “separate from sinners,” Heb. vii. 26. Had Adam stood in his innocence, Christ had not been incarnate, to have been a mediator for sinners; and therefore the counsel of his incarnation, morally, took not place120120 Gen. iii. 15. until after the fall. Though he was in Adam in a natural sense from his first creation, in respect of the purpose of God, Luke iii. 23, 38, yet he was not in him in a law sense until after the fall: so that, as to his own person, he had no more to do with the first sin of Adam, than with any personal sin of [any] one whose punishment he voluntarily took upon him; as we are not liable to the guilt of those progenitors who followed Adam, though naturally we were no less in them than in him. Therefore did he, all the days of his flesh, serve God in a covenant of works; and was therein accepted with him, having done nothing that should disannul the virtue of that covenant as to him. This doth not, then, in the least take off from his perfection.
2dly. For the pollution of our nature, it was prevented in him from the instant of conception, Luke i. 35, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” He was “made of a woman,” Gal. iv. 4; but that portion whereof he was made was sanctified by the Holy Ghost, that what was born thereof should be a holy thing. Not only the conjunction and union of soul and body, whereby a man becomes partaker of his whole nature, and therein of the pollution of sin, being a son of Adam, was prevented by the sanctification of the Holy Ghost, but it also accompanied the very separation of his bodily substance in the womb unto that sacred purpose whereunto it was set apart: so that upon all accounts he is “holy, harmless, undefiled.” Add now hereunto, that he “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,” 1 Pet. ii. 22; that he “fulfilled all righteousness,” Matt. iii. 15; his Father being always “well pleased” with him, verse 17, on the 66account of his perfect obedience; yea, even in that sense wherein he chargeth his angels with folly, and those inhabitants of heaven are not clean in his sight; and his excellency and desirableness in this regard will lie before us. Such was he, such is he; and yet for our sakes was he contented not only to be esteemed by the vilest of men to be a transgressor, but to undergo from God the punishment due to the vilest sinners. Of which afterward.
(2.) The fulness of grace in Christ’s human nature sets forth the amiableness and desirableness thereof. Should I make it my business to consider his perfections, as to this part of his excellency, — what he had from the womb, Luke i. 35, what received growth and improvement as to exercise in the days of his flesh, Luke ii. 52, with the complement of them all in glory, — the whole would tend to the purpose in hand. I am but taking a view of these things in transitu. These two things lie in open sight to all at the first consideration:— all grace was in him, for the kinds thereof; and all degrees of grace, for its perfections; and both of them make up that fulness that was in him. It is created grace that I intend; and therefore I speak of the kinds of it: it is grace inherent in a created nature, not infinite; and therefore I speak of the degrees of it.
For the fountain of grace, the Holy Ghost, he received not him “by measure,” John iii. 34; and for the communications of the Spirit, “it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell,” Col. i. 19, — “that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” But these things are commonly spoken unto.
This is the Beloved of our souls, “holy, harmless, undefiled;” “full of grace and truth;” — 121121 John i. 14, 16; 1 Cor. xi. 1; Eph. v. 2; 1 Pet. ii. 21; Matt. iii. 17; Heb. ii. 18, vii. 25.full, to a sufficiency for every end of grace, — full, for practice, to be an example to men and angels as to obedience, — full, to a certainty of uninterrupted communion with God, — full, to a readiness of giving supply to others, — full, to suit him to all the occasions and necessities of the souls of men, — full, to a glory not unbecoming a subsistence in the person of the Son of God, — full, to a perfect victory, in trials, over all temptations, — full, to an exact correspondence to the whole law, every righteous and holy law of God, — full to the utmost capacity of a limited, created, finite nature, — full, to the greatest beauty and glory of a living temple of God, — full, to the full pleasure and delight of the soul of his Father, — full to an everlasting monument of the glory of God, in giving such inconceivable excellencies to the Son of man.
And this is the second thing considerable for the endearing of our souls to our Beloved.
3. Consider that he is all this in one person. We have not been 67treating of two, a God and a man; but of122122 “Qui, propter homines liberandos ab æternâ morte, homo factus est, et ita ad susceptionem humilitatis nostræ, sine suæ majestatis diminutione inclinans, ut manens quod erat, assumensque quod non erat; veram servi formam, ei formæ, in qua Deo patri est æqualis, adunaret, ut nec inferiorem absumeret glorificatio, nec superiorem minueret assumptio; salvâ enim proprietate utriusque substantiæ, et in unum coëunte personam, suscipitur a majestate humilitas, a virtute infirmitas, a mortalitate æternitas, et ad rependendum nostræ conditionis debitum, natura inviolabilis naturæ est unita passibili,” etc. — Leo. Serm. i. De Nat. one who is God and man. That Word that was with God in the beginning, and was God, John i. 1, is also made flesh, verse 14; — not by a conversion of itself into flesh; not by appearing in the outward shape and likeness of flesh; but by assuming that holy thing that was born of the virgin, Luke i. 35, into personal union with himself. So “The mighty God,” Isa. ix. 6, is a “child given” to us; that holy thing that was born of the virgin is called “The Son of God,” Luke i. 35. That which made the man Christ Jesus to be a man, was the union of soul and body; that which made him that man, and without which he was not the man, was the subsistence of both united in the person of the Son of God. As to the proof hereof, I have spoken of it 123123 Vind. Evan. c. viii. vol. xii.elsewhere at large; I now propose it only in general, to show the amiableness of Christ on this account. Here lies, hence arises, the grace, peace, life, and security of the church, — of all believers; as by some few considerations may be clearly evinced:—
(1.) Hence was he fit124124 “Deus versus, et homo verus in unitatem Domini temperatur, ut, quod nostris remediis congruebat, unus atque idem Dei hominumque mediator et mori possit ex uno, et resurgere possit ex altero.” — Leo. ubi sup. to suffer and able to bear whatever was due unto us, in that very action wherein the “Son of man gave his life a ransom for many,” Matt. xx. 28. “God redeemed his church with his own blood,” Acts xx. 28; and therein was the “love of God seen, that he gave his life for us,” 1 John iii. 16. On this account was there room, enough in his breast to receive the points of all the 125125 Zech. xiii. 7; Ps. lxxxix. 19.swords that were sharpened by the law against us; and strength enough in his shoulders to bear the burden of that curse that was due to us. Thence was he so willing to undertake the work of our redemption, Heb. x. 7, 8, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” — because he knew his ability to go through with it. Had he not been man, he could not have suffered; — had he not been God, his suffering could not have availed either himself or us, — he had not satisfied; the suffering of a mere man could not bear any proportion to that which in any respect was infinite. Had the great and righteous God gathered together all the sins that had been committed by his elect from the foundation of the world, and searched the bosoms of all that were to come to the end of the world, and taken them all, from the sin of their nature to the least deviation from the rectitude of his most holy 68law, and the highest provocation of their regenerate and unregenerate condition, and laid them on a mere holy, innocent, creature; — O how would they have overwhelmed him, and buried him for ever out of the presence of God’s love! Therefore doth the apostle premise that glorious description of him to the purging of our sin: “He hath spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power,” hath “purged our sins.” Heb. i. 2, 3. It was he that purged our sins, who was the Son and heir of all things, by whom the world was made, — the brightness of his Father’s glory, and express image of his person; he did it, he alone was able to do it. “God was manifested in the flesh,” 1 Tim. iii. 16, for this work. The sword awaked against him that was the fellow of the Lord of hosts, Zech. xiii. 7; and by the wounds of that great shepherd are the sheep healed, 1 Pet. ii. 24, 25.
(2.) Hence doth he become an endless, bottomless fountain of grace to all them that believe. The fulness that it pleased the Father to commit to Christ, to be the great treasury and storehouse of the church, did not, doth not, lie in the human nature, considered in itself; but in the person of the mediator, God and man. Consider wherein his communication of grace doth consist, and this will be evident. The foundation of all is laid in his satisfaction, merit, and purchase; these are the morally procuring cause of all the grace we receive from Christ. Hence all grace becomes to be his;126126 John xvi. 14, 15. all the things of the new covenant, the promises of God, all the mercy, love, grace, glory promised, became, I say, to be his. Not as though they were all actually invested, or did reside and were in the human nature, and were from thence really communicated to us by a participation of a portion of what did so inhere: but they are morally his, by a127127 Isa. liii. 11, 12; John i. 16; Col. i. 19, 20. compact, to be bestowed by him as he thinks good, as he is mediator, God and man; that is, the only begotten Son made flesh, John i. 14, “from whose fulness we receive, and grace for grace.” The real communication of grace is by Christ sending the Holy Ghost to regenerate us, and to create all the habitual grace, with the daily supplies thereof, in our hearts, that we are made partakers of. Now the Holy Ghost is thus sent by Christ as mediator, God and man, as is at large declared, John xiv., xv., xvi.; of which more afterward. This, then, is that which I intend by this fulness of grace that is in Christ, from whence we have both our beginning and all our supplies; which makes him, as he is the Alpha and Omega of his church, the beginner and finisher of our faith, excellent and desirable to our souls:128128 Heb. xii. 2; Rev. i. 11.— Upon 69the payment of the great price of his blood, and full acquitment on the satisfaction he made, all grace whatever (of which at large afterward) becomes, in a moral sense, his, at his disposal; and he bestows it on, or works it in, the hearts of his by the Holy Ghost, according as, in his infinite wisdom, he sees it needful. How glorious is he to the soul on this consideration! That is most excellent to us which suits us in a wanting condition, — that which gives bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, mercy to the perishing. All our reliefs are thus in our Beloved. Here is the life of our souls, the joy of our hearts, our relief against sin and deliverance from the wrath to come.
(3.) Thus is he fitted for a mediator, a days-man, an umpire between God and us, — being one with him, and one with us, and one in himself in this oneness, in the unity of one person. His ability and universal fitness for his office of mediator are hence usually demonstrated. And herein is he “Christ,129129 1 Cor. i. 24. the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” Herein shines out the infinitely glorious wisdom of God; which we may better admire than express. What soul that hath any acquaintance with these things falls not down with reverence and astonishment? How glorious is he that is the Beloved of our souls! What can be wanting that should encourage us to take up our rest and peace in his bosom? Unless all ways of relief and refreshment be so obstructed by unbelief, that no consideration can reach the heart to yield it the least assistance, it is impossible but that from hence the soul may gather that which will endear it unto him with whom we have to do. Let us dwell on the thoughts of it. This is the hidden mystery; great without controversy; admirable to eternity. What poor, low, perishing things do we spend our contemplations on! Were we to have no advantage by this astonishing dispensation, yet its excellency, glory, beauty, depths, deserve the flower of our inquiries, the vigour of our spirits, the substance of our time; but when, withal, our life, our peace, our joy, our inheritance, our eternity, our all, lies herein, shall not the thoughts of it always dwell in our hearts, always refresh and delight our souls?
(4.) He is excellent and glorious in this, — in that he is exalted and invested with all authority. When130130 Gen. xlv. 26, 27. Jacob heard of the exaltation of his son Joseph in Egypt, and saw the chariots that he had sent for him, his spirit fainted and recovered again, through abundance of joy and other overflowing affections. Is our Beloved lost, who for our sakes was upon the earth poor and persecuted, reviled, killed? No! he was dead, but he is alive, and, lo, he lives for ever and ever, and hath the keys of hell and of death.131131 Rev. i. 18. Our Beloved is made a lord and ruler, Acts ii. 36. He is made a king; God sets 70him his king on his holy hill of Zion, Ps. ii. 6;132132 Gen. xlix. 10; Numb. xxiv. 17, 19; Ps. ii. 1–9, lxxxix. 19–25, cx. 1–3; Isa. xi. 1, 4, xxxii. 1, 2, liii. 12, lxiii. 1–3; Jer. xxiii. 5, 6; Dan. vii. 13, 14; Luke ii. 11, xix. 38; John v. 22, 23; Acts ii. 34–36, v. 31; Phil. ii. 9–11; Eph. i. 20–22; Rev. v. 12–14, xix. 16. and he is crowned with honour and dignity, after he had been “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death,” Heb. ii. 7–9. And what is he made king of? “All things are put in subjection under his feet,” verse 8. And what power over them hath our Beloved? “All power in heaven and earth,” Matt. xxviii. 18. As for men, he hath power given him “over all flesh,” John xvii. 2. And in what glory doth he exercise this power? He gives eternal life to his elect; ruling them in the power of God, Micah v. 4, until he bring them to himself: and for his enemies, his arrows are sharp in their hearts, Ps. xlv. 5; he dips his vesture in their blood.133133 Isa. lxiii. 3. Oh, how glorious is he in his authority over his enemies! In this world he terrifies, frightens, awes, convinces, bruises their hearts and consciences, — fills them with fear, terror, disquietment, until they yield him feigned obedience; and sometimes with outward judgments bruises, breaks, turns the wheel upon them, — stains all his vesture with their blood, — fills the earth with their carcases: and at last will gather them all together, beast, false prophet, nations, etc., and cast them into that lake that burns with fire and brimstone.134134 Ps. cx. 6; Rev. xix. 20.
He is gloriously exalted above angels in this his authority, good and bad, Eph. i. 20–22, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” They are all under his feet, — at his command and absolute disposal. He is at the right hand of God, in the highest exaltation possible, and in full possession of a kingdom over the whole creation; having received a “name above every name,” etc., Phil. ii. 9. Thus is he glorious in his throne, which is at “the right hand of the 135135 Heb. i. 3; Eph. i. 22; Matt. xxviii. 18; Phil. ii. 10, 11; Rev. xix. 16; Ps. xlv., lxviii.; Dan. vii. 10.Majesty on high;” glorious in his commission, which is “all power in heaven and earth;” glorious in his name, a name above every name, — “Lord of lords, and King of kings;” glorious in his sceptre, — “a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of his kingdom;” glorious in his attendants, — “his chariots are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels,” among them he rideth on the heavens, and sendeth out the voice of his strength, attended with ten thousand times ten thousand of his holy ones; glorious in his subjects, — all creatures in heaven and in earth, nothing is left that is not put in subjection to him; glorious in his way of rule, and the administration of his kingdom, — full of sweetness, efficacy, power, serenity, holiness, righteousness, and grace, in and towards his elect, — of terror, 71vengeance, and certain destruction towards the rebellious angels and men; glorious in the issue of his kingdom, when every knee shall bow before him, and all shall stand before his judgment-seat. And what a little portion of his glory is it that we have pointed to! This is the beloved of the church, — its head, its husband; this is he with whom we have communion: but of the whole exaltation of Jesus Christ I am elsewhere to treat at large.
Having insisted on these generals, for the farther carrying on the motives to communion with Christ, in the relation mentioned, taken from his excellencies and perfections, I shall reflect on the description given of him by the spouse in the Canticles, to this very end and purpose Cant. v. 10–16, “My Beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh. His hands are as gold rings, set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”
The general description given of him, verse 10, hath been before considered; the ensuing particulars are instances to make good the assertion that he is “the chiefest among ten thousand.”
The spouse begins with his head and face, verses 11–13. In his head, she speaks first in general, unto the substance of it, — it is “fine gold;” and then in particular, as to its ornaments, — “his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.”
1. “His head is as the most fine gold,” or, “His head gold, solid gold;” so some; — “made of pure gold;” so others; — χρυσίον κεφαλή, say the LXX., retaining part of both the Hebrew words, “כֶּתֶם פָּז, — “massa auri.”136136 So the words are quoted in all editions of this treatise. Fully to develop the meaning of the allusion, it seems necessary that the whole of the Septuagint rendering should be quoted, — Κεφαλὴ αὐτοῦ χρυσίον κεφὰζ. It is the last word in which part of both the Hebrew words is said to be retained. There is some difficulty in fixing the import of פָּז. Gesenius refers us to Ps. xix. 10, in proof that it means fine, as distinguished from common gold; from פָּזַז, a root not used in Hebrew, but signifying, in the cognate dialect of Arabic, to separate, to purify metals. Some connect the term with Uphaz, a district from which gold was procured, Jer. x. 9. Schultens derives the word from פָּזַז, to leap, to spring up into notice, in allusion to the amount of gold discovered on the surface of the earth, through the previous disintegration of the rock in which it was disseminated, and when a shower has washed it from the soil by which it was covered. There is coincidence between the etymology of the word suggested by the Dutch critic, and the fact that the largest quantities of gold and gold ore have been discovered, not by excavation, but by the washing of detritus in regions of primary and transitory strata where the eruption of igneous rocks has occurred: “As for the earth, … it hath dust of gold,” Job xxviii. 5, 6. — Ed.
Two things are eminent in gold, — splendour or glory, and duration. This is that which the spouse speaks of the head of Christ. His head is his government, authority, and kingdom. Hence it is said, “A crown of pure gold was on his head,” Ps. xxi. 3; and his head is here said to be gold, because of the crown of gold that adorns it, — 72as the monarchy in Daniel that was most eminent for glory and duration, is termed a “head of gold,” Dan. ii. 38. And these two things are eminent in the kingdom and authority of Christ:—
(1.) It is a glorious kingdom; he is full of glory and majesty, and in his majesty he rides “prosperously,” Ps. xlv. 3, 4. “His glory is great in the salvation of God: honour and majesty are laid upon him: he is made blessed for ever and ever,” Ps. xxi. 5, 6. I might insist on particulars, and show that there is not any thing that may render a kingdom or government glorious, but it is in this of Christ in all its excellencies. It is a heavenly, a spiritual, a universal, and unshaken kingdom; all which render it glorious. But of this, somewhat before.
(2.) It is durable, yea, eternal, — solid gold. “His throne is for ever and ever,” Ps. xlv. 6; “of the increase of his government there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever,” Isa. ix. 7. “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,” Dan. vii. 27, — “a kingdom that shall never be destroyed,” chap. ii. 44; for he must reign until all his enemies be subdued. This is that head of gold, — the splendour and eternity of his government.
And if you take the head in a natural sense, either the glory of his Deity is here attended to, or the fulness and excellency of his wisdom, which the head is the seat of. The allegory is not to be straitened, whilst we keep to the analogy of faith.
2. For the ornaments of his head; his locks, they are said to be “bushy,” or curled, “black as a raven.” His curled locks are black; “as a raven,” is added by way of illustration of the blackness, not with any allusion to the nature of the raven. Take the head spoken of in a political sense: his locks of hair — said to be curled, as seeming to be entangled, but really falling in perfect order and beauty, as bushy locks — are his thoughts, and counsels, and ways, in the administration of his kingdom. They are black or dark, because of their depth and unsearchableness, — as God is said to dwell in thick darkness; and curled or bushy, because of their exact interweavings, from his infinite wisdom. His thoughts are many as the hairs of the head, seeming to be perplexed and entangled, but really set in a comely order, as curled bushy hair; deep and unsearchable, and 73dreadful to his enemies, and full of beauty and comeliness to his beloved. Such are, I say, the thoughts of his heart, the counsels of his wisdom, in reference to the administrations of his kingdom:— dark, perplexed, involved, to a carnal eye; in themselves, and to his saints, deep, manifold, ordered in all things, comely, desirable.
In a natural sense, black and curled locks denote comeliness, and vigour of youth. The strength and power of Christ, in the execution of his counsels, in all his ways, appears glorious and lovely.
The next thing described in him is his eyes. Verse 12, “His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.” The reason of this allusion is obvious:— doves are tender birds, not birds of prey; and of all others they have the most bright, shining, and piercing eye; their delight also in streams of water is known. Their being washed in milk, or clear, white, crystal water, adds to their beauty. And they are here said to be “fitly set;” that is, in due proportion for beauty and lustre, — as a precious stone in the foil or fulness of a ring, as the word signifies.
Eyes being for sight, discerning, knowledge, and acquaintance with the things that are to be seen; the knowledge, the understanding, the discerning Spirit of Christ Jesus, are here intended. In the allusion used four things are ascribed to them:— 1. Tenderness; 2. Purity; 3. Discerning; and, 4. Glory:—
1. The tenderness and compassion of Christ towards his church is here intended. He looks on it with the eyes of galless doves; with tenderness and careful compassion; without anger, fury, or thoughts of revenge. So is the eye interpreted, Deut. xi. 12, “The eyes of the Lord thy God are upon that land.” Why so? “It is a land that the Lord thy God careth for;” — careth for it in mercy. So are the eyes of Christ on us, as the eyes of one that in tenderness cares for us; that lays out his wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, in all tender love, in our behalf. He is the stone, that foundation-stone of the church, whereon “are seven eyes,” Zech. iii. 9; wherein is a perfection of wisdom, knowledge, care, and kindness, for its guidance.
2. Purity; — as washed doves’ eyes for purity. This may be taken either subjectively, for the excellency and immixed cleanness and purity of his sight and knowledge in himself; or objectively, for his delighting to behold purity in others. “He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity,” Hab. i. 13. “He hath no pleasure in wickedness; the foolish shall not stand in his sight,” Ps. v. 4, 5. If the righteous soul of Lot was vexed with seeing the filthy deeds of wicked men, 2 Pet. ii. 8, who yet had eyes of flesh, in which there was a mixture of impurity; how much more do the pure eyes of our dear Lord Jesus abominate all the filthiness of sinners! But herein lies the excellency 74of his love to us, that he takes care to take away our filth and stains, that he may delight in us; and seeing we are so defiled, that it could no otherwise be done, he will do it by his own blood, Eph. v. 25–27, “Even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish.” The end of this undertaking is, that the church might be thus gloriously presented unto himself, because he is of purer eyes than to behold it with joy and delight in any other condition. He leaves not his spouse until he says of her, “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee,” Cant. iv. 7. Partly, he takes away our spots and stains, by the “renewing of the Holy Ghost;”137137 Tit. iii. 5. and wholly adorns us with his own righteousness: and that because of the purity of his own eyes, which “cannot behold iniquity,” — that he might present us to himself holy.
3. Discerning. He sees as doves, quickly, clearly, thoroughly, — to the bottom of that which he looks upon. Hence, in another place it is said that his “eyes are as a flame of fire,” Rev. i. 14. And why so? That the churches might know that he is he which “searcheth the reins and hearts,” Rev. ii. 23. He hath discerning eyes, nothing is hid from him; all things are open and naked before him with whom we have to do. It is said of him, whilst he was in this world, that “Jesus knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man,” John ii. 24, 25. His piercing eyes look through all the thick coverings of hypocrites, and the snow [show] of pretences that is on them. He sees the inside of all; and what men are there, that they are to him. He sees not as we see, but ponders the hidden man of the heart. No humble, broken, contrite soul, shall lose one sigh or groan after him, and communion with him; no pant of love or desire is hid from him, — he sees in secret; no glorious performance of the most glorious hypocrite will avail with him, — his eyes look through all, and the filth of their hearts lies naked before him.
4. Beauty and glory are here intended also. Every thing of Christ is beautiful, for he is “altogether lovely,” verse 16, but most glorious [is he] in his sight and wisdom: he is the wisdom of God’s eternal wisdom itself; his understanding is infinite. What spots and stains are in all our knowledge! When it is made perfect, yet it will still be finite and limited. His is without spot of darkness, without foil of limitedness.
Thus, then, is he beautiful and glorious:— his “head is of gold, his eyes are doves’ eyes, washed in milk, and fitly set.”
75The next thing insisted on is his cheeks. Verse 13, “His cheeks are as a bed of spices; as sweet flowers,” or “towers of perfumes” [marginal reading], or well-grown flowers. There are three things evidently pointed at in these words:— 1. A sweet savour, as from spices, and flowers, and towers of perfume; 2. Beauty and order, as spices set in rows or beds, as the words import; 3. Eminency in that word, as sweet or well-grown, great flowers.
These things are in the cheeks of Christ. The Chaldee paraphrast, who applies this whole song to God’s dealings with the people of the Jews, makes these cheeks of the church’s husband to be the two tables of stone, with the various lines drawn in them; but that allusion is strained, as are most of the conjectures of that scholiast.
The cheeks of a man are the seat of comeliness and manlike courage. The comeliness of Christ, as hath in part been declared, is from his fulness of grace in himself for us. His manly courage respects the administration of his rule and government, from his fulness of authority; as was before declared. This comeliness and courage the spouse, describing Christ as a beautiful, desirable personage, to show that spiritually he is so, calleth his cheeks; so to make up his parts, and proportion. And to them doth she ascribe, —
1. A sweet savour, order, and eminency. A sweet savour; as God is said to smell a sweet savour from the grace and obedience of his servants (Gen. viii. 21, the Lord smelled a savour of rest from the sacrifice of Noah), so do the saints smell a sweet savour from his grace laid up in Christ, Cant. i. 3. It is that which they rest in, which they delight in, which they are refreshed with. As the smell of aromatical spices and flowers pleases the natural sense, refreshes the spirits, and delights the person; so do the graces of Christ to his saints. They please their spiritual sense, they refresh their drooping spirits, and give delight to their souls. If he be nigh them, they smell his raiment, as Isaac the raiment of Jacob. They say, “It is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed,” Gen. xxvii. 27; and their souls are refreshed with it.
2. Order and beauty are as spices set in a garden bed. So are the graces of Christ. When spices are set in order, any one may know what is for his use, and take and gather it accordingly. Their answering, also, one to another makes them beautiful. So are the graces of Christ; in the gospel they are distinctly and in order set forth, that sinners by faith may view them, and take from him according to their necessity. They are ordered for the use of saints in the promises of the gospel. There is light in him, and life in him, and power in him, and all consolation in him; — a constellation of graces, shining with glory and beauty. Believers take a view of them all, see their glory and excellency, but fix especially on that 76which, in the condition wherein they are, is most useful to them. One takes light and joy; another, life and power. By faith and prayer do they gather these things in this bed of spices. Not any that comes to him goes away unrefreshed. What may they not take, what may they not gather? what is it that the poor soul wants? Behold, it is here provided, set out in order in the promises of the gospel; which are as the beds wherein these spices are set for our use: and on the account hereof is the covenant said to be “ordered in all things,” 2 Sam. xxiii. 5.
3. Eminency. His cheeks are “a tower of perfumes” held up, made conspicuous, visible, eminent. So it is with the graces of Christ, when held out and lifted up in the preaching of the gospel. They are a tower of perfumes, — a sweet savour to God and man.
The next clause of that verse is, “His lips are like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.” Two perfections in things natural are here alluded unto:— First, the glory of colour in the lilies, and the sweetness of savour in the myrrh. The glory and beauty of the lilies in those countries was such as that our Saviour tells us that “Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of them,” Matt. vi. 29; and the savour of myrrh such as, when the Scripture would set forth any thing to be an excellent savour, it compares it thereunto, Ps. xlv. 8; and thereof was the sweet and holy ointment chiefly made, Exod. xxx. 23–25: mention is also made frequently of it in other places, to the same purpose. It is said of Christ, that “grace was poured into his lips,” Ps. xlv. 2; whence men wondered or were amazed — τοῖς λόγοις τῆς χάριτος, [Luke iv. 22] — at the words of grace that proceeded out of his mouth. So that by the lips of Christ, and their dropping sweet-smelling myrrh, the word of Christ, its savour, excellency, and usefulness, is intended. Herein is he excellent and glorious indeed, surpassing the excellencies of those natural things which yet are most precious in their kind, — even in the glory, beauty, and usefulness of his word. Hence they that preach his word to the saving of the souls of men, are said to be a “sweet savour unto God,” 2 Cor. ii. 15; and the savour of the knowledge of God is said to be manifested by them, verse 14. I might insist on the several properties of myrrh, whereto the word of Christ is here compared, — its bitterness in taste, its efficacy to preserve from putrefaction, its usefulness in perfumes and unctions, — and press the allegory in setting out the excellencies of the word in allusions to them; but I only insist on generals. This is that which the Holy Ghost here intends:— the word of Christ is sweet, savoury, precious unto believers; and they see him to be excellent, desirable, beautiful, in the precepts, promises, exhortations, and the most bitter threats thereof.
The spouse adds, “His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl” 77[verse 14]. The word “beryl,” in the original, is “Tarshish;”138138 As Ophir is taken for the gold of Ophir, in Job xxii. 24, so Tarshish, the name of a city, of which the locality is disputed, is used to denote a precious stone which was brought from it. It is translated “beryl” in the authorized version, though שֹׁהַם, in Ezek. xxviii. 13, is also rendered by the same term. Some make תַּרְשִׁישׁ, the chrysolite or topaz of the moderns. The word has been thought to denote the sea, in Isa. xxiii. 10, but on slender ground. — Ed. which the Septuagint have retained, not restraining it to any peculiar precious stone; the onyx, say some; the chrysolite, say others; — any precious stone shining with a sea-green colour, for the word signifies the sea also. Gold rings set with precious, glittering stones, are both valuable and desirable, for profit and ornament: so are the hands of Christ; that is, all his works, — the effects, by the cause. All his works are glorious; they are all fruits of wisdom, love, and bounty. “And his belly is as bright ivory, overlaid with sapphires.” The smoothness and brightness of ivory, the preciousness and heavenly colour of the sapphires, are here called in, to give some lustre to the excellency of Christ.” To these is his belly, or rather his bowels (which takes in the heart also), compared. It is the inward bowels, and not the outward bulk that is signified. Now, to show that by “bowels” in the Scripture, ascribed either to God or man, affections are intended, is needless. The tender love, unspeakable affections and kindness, of Christ to his church and people, is thus set out. What a beautiful sight is it to the eye, to see pure polished ivory set up and down with heaps of precious sapphires! How much more glorious are the tender affections, mercies, and compassion of the Lord Jesus unto believers!
Verse 15. The strength of his kingdom, the faithfulness and stability of his promises, — the height and glory of his person in his dominion, — the sweetness and excellency of communion with him, is set forth in these words: “His legs are as pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold; his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars: his mouth is most sweet.”
When the spouse hath gone thus far in the description of him, she concludes all in this general assertion: “He is wholly desirable, — altogether to be desired or beloved.” As if she should have said, — “I have thus reckoned up some of the perfections of the creatures (things of most value, price, usefulness, beauty, glory, here below), and compared some of the excellencies of my Beloved unto them. In this way of allegory I can carry things no higher; I find nothing better or more desirable to shadow out and to present his loveliness and desirableness: but, alas! all this comes short of his perfections, beauty, and comeliness; ‘he is all wholly to be desired, to be beloved;’ ” —
Lovely in his person, — in the glorious all-sufficiency of his Deity, 78gracious purity and holiness of his humanity, authority and majesty, love and power.
Lovely in his birth and incarnation; when he was rich, for our sakes becoming poor, — taking part of flesh and blood, because we partook of the same; being made of a woman, that for us he might be made under the law, even for our sakes.
Lovely in the whole course of his life, and the more than angelical holiness and obedience which, in the depth of poverty and persecution, he exercised therein; — doing good, receiving evil; blessing, and being cursed, reviled, reproached, all his days.
Lovely in his death; yea, therein most lovely to sinners; — never more glorious and desirable than when he came broken, dead, from the cross. Then had he carried all our sins into a land of forgetfulness; then had he made peace and reconciliation for us; then had he procured life and immortality for us.
Lovely in his whole employment, in his great undertaking, — in his life, death, resurrection, ascension; being a mediator between God and us, to recover the glory of God’s justice, and to save our souls, — to bring us to an enjoyment of God, who were set at such an infinite distance from him by sin.
Lovely in the glory and majesty wherewith he is crowned. Now he is set down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; where, though he be terrible to his enemies, yet he is full of mercy, love, and compassion, towards his beloved ones.
Lovely in all those supplies of grace and consolations, in all the dispensations of his Holy Spirit, whereof his saints are made partakers.
Lovely in all the tender care, power, and wisdom, which he exercises in the protection, safe-guarding, and delivery of his church and people, in the midst of all the oppositions and persecutions whereunto they are exposed.
Lovely in all his ordinances, and the whole of that spiritually glorious worship which he hath appointed to his people, whereby they draw nigh and have communion with him and his Father.
Lovely and glorious in the vengeance he taketh, and will finally execute, upon the stubborn enemies of himself and his people.
Lovely in the pardon he hath purchased and doth dispense, — in the reconciliation he hath established, — in the grace he communicates, — in the consolations he doth administer, — in the peace and joy he gives his saints, — in his assured preservation of them unto glory.
What shall I say? there is no end of his excellencies and desirableness; — “He is altogether lovely. This is our beloved, and this is our friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”
|« Prev||Digression I.||Next »|