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Chapter 7 Verse 2

Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor:
thy belly is like an heap of wheat, set about with lilies.

first wordhere continues the commendation of his church, and gives two other instances of her beauty: and as in the former verse, he had commended those parts, which may be expressive of her outward walk and conversation, and of the principles of grace from whence she acted; so here he may be thought to set forth her inward glory by these, the navel and belly, which are more hidden and less conspicuous; for this king’s daughter is all-glorious within, as well as her conversation is honorable without; her adorning not being the “outward adorning, of platting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but is the hidden man of the heart, is that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price:” but what is particularly intended by these parts, will more manifestly appear from a distinct consideration of them. And,

I.Her navel is said to be “like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor.”

II.Her belly as “an heap of wheat, set about with lilies.”

I.Her navel is compared to “a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor:” by which some829829R. Aben Ezra and Sanctius in loc. understand, not that part of the body itself, but some covering or ornament of it; as some jewel or plate of gold, which was so called, either, because it was the shape of the navel, or else, because it covered and adorned it; as also, because the word translated round in the Chaldee language signifies the moon, it has inclined them to think that this ornament may be the same which the Jewish women are said to wear, in Isaiah 3:18, where mention is made of their “round tires like the moon;” which figure is also understood by the Targum upon our text though others,830830Bishop Patrick in loc. who are also of opinion that some covering of these parts is intended; yet think that the reference is made unto that “clothing of wrought gold,” with which the church is said to be arrayed, in Psalm 45:13 in the midst of which, or in that part of it which covered the navel and belly, was a raised or embossed work, which resembled an heap of wheat, or rather, sheaves of wheat, round about which was an embroidery of curious flowers, and especially lilies; ,and in the midst of the whole work, a fountain or conduir, running with several sorts of liquors, into a great bowl or bason: Fortunatus Scacchus831831Elcochrysm. Sacr. 1. 3. p. 1016. interprets it of a garment covering those parts, embroidered with lilies. By all which, the glory and beauty of the “garments of salvation, and robe of Christ’s righteousness,” with which believers are adorned, may be represented to us. R. Aben Ezra, by the navel, understands the great Sanhedrim; as he does by the belly, the lesser:832832So likewise do the Jews, in T. Bah. Sota fol. 45. 1. and Sanhedrim, fol. 14. 2. and fol. 37. 1, and Shihirhashirim Rabba in loc. and in Bemidhar Rabba, parash, 1 R. Solomon Jarchi, lishcat gazit, or the paved chamber an which they sat. Moreover, nothing is more frequent with Jewish writers,833833Vid. R. David Kimchium in Ezekiel 38:12. & Jarchium in loci than to call the land of Canaan, and particularly Jerusalem, the navel of the earth; which they suppose to be in the very midst of it, for which reason they call it so; and it was from this navel of the earth, that the gospel of Christ, went forth into all the world; “for out of Zion shall go, forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem:” The Targum, or Chaldee paraphrase on the place, applies it to the “head of the school; by whose righteousness the whole world receives nourishment, even as the child receives nourishment through its navel in its mother’s bowels.” And I am inclined to think, that by it we are to understand the ministers of the gospel; who, in the administration of the word and ordinances, are that to Christ’s body, the church, as the navel is to an human body: and, 1. As the navel is placed in the more eminent part of the belly, so ate the ministers of the gospel in the highest place in the church; who, being called to the greatest work, have the greatest gifts, and largest measures of grace bestowed upon them, to furnish them for it; to whom others are exhorted to submit themselves, they being set over them “in or by the Lord.” 2. As the navel, they are placed in the midst of Christ’s body, the church: it is in the midst of the church they do all their work, preach the gospel, and administer ordinances, in imitation of and conformity to their great master and prophet in Israel, Christ Jesus; who said, “In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee,” (Heb. 2:12). 3. As the navel is the strength of the intestines; so the ministers of Christ are not only strong themselves, in the power and grace of Christ, as they had need be, but are also strength-criers of others; one principal part of their work being to “strengthen weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees;” as our Lord said to Peter, “when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren,” (Luke 22:32). 4. As the navel conduces much to the health of the body, so do the ministers of the gospel to the health of the church: Solomon, speaking of the tear of the Lord, says, that “it shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones,” where, by the navel, he means the whole body; that being in a good plight, and a healthful condition, has much influence upon the whole body to make it so: The ministers of Christ, in preaching the everlasting gospel, and feeding souls with the “wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ,” are very serviceable for the increasing and maintaining the health of the church; many things in the book of Proverbs are applicable to them in this case (see Prov. 12:18, 13:17, 16:24). 5. The navel is that part through which the child receives its nourishment in the womb; the ministers of Christ as they are instruments in begetting souls again, so they are useful in the nourishing of them, even when in embryo, as well as in feeding them with “ the sincere milk of the word;” which they, as “new-born babes,” are desirous of, and with which they are nourished and brought up. Moreover, the navel of the church is compared to a “round goblet, bowl or bason.” I need not observe how aptly the metaphor agrees with this part of the body, it being like a bowl or bason, both round and hollow; though the mystical writers ,among the Jews render it, the pit of the breast or stomach;834834Lex. Cabal. p. 99. a phrase which we also use, and rather seems to answer better the description given: which, in a mystical sense, may be expressive of, 1. The perfection of gospel-ministers: the round or circular form is accounted the most per-feet; these, though they are not absolutely perfect, yet may be said to be comparatively so, having a more perfect knowledge of the gospel, and the mysteries of it, than private believers usually have (see Phil. 3:15), for having a larger acquaintance with the scriptures of truth, they are thereby in a sense made perfect, and “thoroughly furnished Unto all good works,” as the apostle observes, in 2 Timothy 3:17, 2. It may also be expressive of that workmanship which is bestowed upon them; who of themselves are not “sufficient for these things,” until, by the gifts and graces of the Spirit, they are made “able ministers of the New Testament,” and in some good measure qualified for the work of the ministry; and then are they like “a round goblet,” turned and formed by some curious artist. 3. It may likewise serve to set forth the capacity which they are endowed withal, to hold and retain gospel-truths; they are not like colanders, which immediately let out whatever is poured into them; but like round goblets, bowls or basons, which to old and retain whatever they receive; and this is esteemed as a necessary qualification of a gospel minister, by the apostle Paul, in Titus 1:9, that he be such an one as holds fast the faithful word, and does not let it slip nor go from him; but continues in the things which he has learned, knowing of whom he has learned them.

Also, it is worthy of our notice, that this navel of the church is not compared to an empty goblet, but to one that “wanteth not liquor:” by which may be meant, (1.) The grace of the blessed Spirit which is more or less in all believers; which lunch conduces to their healthfulness, as the moisture of the navel does to the body: it is no unusual thing in scripture for the grace of the Spirit to be compared to water, and to an abundance of it; even to rivers of living water; which are said to be in the belly of a believer, and these are never-failing ones; for grace is in them, as a “well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Or, (2.) The church’s cleanness may be intended by this expression; who being washed in Christ’s blood, and sprinkled with the clean water of the everlasting covenant, needed no other liquor to be washed with; and thus, as a navel not cut and unwashed, represents the impurity and corruption of nature, in Ezekiel 16:4, so a navel cut and washed, as the church’s is here, may be expressive of her purity and cleanness, through the blood and grace of Christ; so that she needs no other liquor to make her clean. Or rather, (3.) It intends those large and never-failing supplies which the ministers of the gospel continually have from Christ; who is “ascended on high to fill all things,” and particularly ministers; that so they may never want the liquor of gospel-truths to communicate to others; for which reason he has promised to be with them unto the end of the world; as he accordingly is, and continues filling these golden pipes, as fast as they empty the golden oil of gospel-truths out of themselves. And, 4. The Hebrew word translated liquor, properly signifying, a mixture, or a mixed liquor,835835nzmh mistio. Mercerus: mixtio, Tunius & Tremellius, Piscator; mixtura, Marchius, Michaelis; though Gataker interprets it of pure wine, and that the most generous. Adversar. Miscel p. 44. may be expressive of that variety of gospel-grace and gospel-truths, which they are possessed of, and distribute to others: which is a mixture, not of human inventions, and the doctrines of the gospel together: but of wine and milk, which are joined together, in Isaiah 55:1 to which souls are invited to partake of: and which perhaps is the mingled wine, in Proverbs 9:2-5, such a mixed liquor836836The Jews say, it was two parts water and one wine, Shirhashirim Rabba in loc and Bemidbar Rabba, parach of the wine of Sharon was mixed, Misn Niddah, c. 2. s. 7. being what was drank in those countries, as appears from Song of Solomon 5:1, and such a mixture as this, for thirsty, distressed and fainting souls, will never be wanting in the gospel, or with gospel-ministers.

Likewise it may be observed, that the words may be read as a wish for a continued supply of this mixed liquor in this vessel, thus, “Let there not want liquor”;837837Ne deficit illius mixtio, Junius: so Ainsworth and so is expressive of Christ’s strong affection to his church, and tender concern that there might be a continued supply in the ministry of the word for her nourishment; as well as implies a promise that it should be so.

II.Her belly is said to be as “an heap of wheat, set about with lilies;” which, as the former expression sets forth the nourishment which she has through the ministry of the word, this may be expressive of her fruitfulness thereby: it was usual with the Jews to scatter wheat on the heads of married persons, at their weddings, three times, saying Increase and multiply;838838Vial. Selden Uxor. Hebrews 1. 2. c. 15. p 195. and Addison’s Present State of the Jews, c. 5. p. 52, for the allusion seems to be to a woman with child, as one839839Durham in loc. welt observes; she is fruitful and big, not with wind, but with wheat: by which may be meant, either, 1. The word or gospel of the grace of God, which is comparable to wheat; “he that hath my word,” saith the Lord (Jer. 23:28), “let him speak my word faithfully; for what is the chaff to the wheat?” there is as much difference between a teller of dreams, and a faithful preacher of the gospel; or between the dreams which the one tells, and the word which the other preaches, as there is between the chaff and the wheat. The gospel may be compared to wheat for the excellency of it: wheat is the most excellent of grain; it is not only preferable to chaff, but to all other gram whatsoever: so the gospel is preferable to all other doctrines whatever; and ought to be valued by believers mote than their necessary food seeing that those who are fed therewith, are fed with the “finest of the wheat;” and therefore may not only be compared to wheat for its excellency, but also for the nourishment which it conveys. Besides, wheat is a solid, weighty, and substantial gram; as are also the doctrines of the gospel; which are not like wind, but wheat; and is a quite different food than what Ephraim fed upon; of whom it is said (Hosea 12:1), “Ephraim feedeth on wind.” Moreover, this is an heap of wheat, which the church’s belly is compared to here; such an one as is upon the corn-floor, ready threshed and winnowed, and cleared of the chaff (see Ruth 3:7), and so may intend the purity of the gospel, and its being clear of all human inventions and mixtures; it is wheat that is clear from, and not mixed with the chaff; for as faithful ministers will not set forth such to feed upon, so neither will enlightened and experienced souls receive it: also, this heap may be expressive of the variety and multitude of soul-comforting doctrines, and exceeding great and precious promises, with which the gospel abounds; there are many of them, an heap of them. and fullness of the blessing in every one; they are full of spiritual blessings and consolations, especially when they come “in power and in the Holy Ghost.” Or else, 2. By it may be meant the graces of the Spirit of God, with which she was filled; which may also be compared to wheat for the excellency of them, being more valuable than, and to be preferred unto all the desirable things of nature; and to an “heap of wheat” for the variety of them, which souls receive from Christ; of whose “fullness they receive grace for grace,” that is, grace in some measure answerable to the grace in Christ, or grace in abundance; “grace for grace,”840840Gratiam super graitiam, q. d. gratiam gratis cumulatam, Beza in John i. that is, heaps of grace; for there cannot be one grace, but there must be every grace, even heaps of grace: as also for the purity of them, being free from all mixtures of hypocrisy; their faith is a faith unfeigned; their hope, which is fixed on Christ’s person, blood, and righteousness, is of a different nature than that of the hypocrites; their love to God, Christ, his gospel, ordinances and people, is without dissimulation; in short, sincerity runs through all their graces; they are like an heap of wheat, winnowed and cleared of chaff: moreover, these may be compared to wheat for their permanence; they will abide the sieve of Satan’s temptations, as Peter’s faith did; for though it was shaken much, it did not fail, because Christ prayed for it; and they will also abide the world’s fan of persecution, and likewise the awful scrutiny and discrimination, which will be made at the clay of judgment; when the florid profession and external works and righteousness of others will be as chaff, which “the wind shall carry away, and vanity shall take,” these will abide and appear in their greatest glory and full perfection. Though I rather think, 3. That by this heap of wheat, to which the church’s belly is compared, are meant young converts;841841The Jews in Sharhashirim Rabba in loc. and in Bemidbar Rabba, parash. 1. interpret it of the Israelites, whom for many reasons they compare to wheat, and the nations of the world to chaff: and R. Alshecb. of young disciples. who are not only born in the church, but are also brought forth by her; “for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth hot children:” and these are the wheat which Christ will gather into his garner, when he will burn up the wicked, “the chaff, with unquenchable fire:” as wheat is the noblest of seeds, is full of meat, is solid and substantial, these are born, “not of corruptible, but incorruptible seed,” and being full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and continually receiving from Christ’s fullness, are solid and substantial believers; and will abide the force of persecution now, and stand the trying and discriminating time hereafter; “when the ungodly shall not be so, but shall be like the chaff which the wind driveth away; for they shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;” but even then this wheat ,a ill continue on the floor, and be gathered into Christ’s barn. Moreover, this heap of wheat signifies the large number of souls that shall be born again in the church; and when those scriptures, in Isaiah 49:19-21 and 60:8, have had their full accomplishment, then will this description of the church be exactly answered, and appear very glorious.

Moreover this heap of wheat is said to be “set about with lilies,” or, as in the Hebrew text, hedged with lilies;842842µynçwçb hnwm pefragmhnh en krinoiv, Junius, Mercerus, Cocceius, Marckius. & alii; vallatus lilils, Vulgate Latin ver sion; circumseptus liliis, Tigurine version. which would incline one to think, that not an heap of wheat upon the corn-floor, but a field of standing wheat is here intended; whose enclosure is not an hedge of thorns and briars, but of lilies: by which lilies may be meant, either the precious promises and comfortable doctrines which abound in, and encompass around the word of God, or else, the sweet odor which the graces of the Spirit emit on every side; or rather, “the beauties of holiness,” in which men appear as soon as they are born again; and may be expressive of their secrecy and security, as well as of their beauty and glory.

There is one thing more which I would not omit the mention of., and that is, that some interpreters843843Vid. Cotton and Bishop Patrick in lec. think, that by these two parts, the navel and belly, here described, are meant the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper: by the former, the ordinance of baptism, which is the first ordinance administered to believers; and which none but those who are born again, receive any comfort, nourishment or benefit from: and by the latter, the Lord’s supper; which, like an heap of wheat, affords solid and substantial food to believers; where Christ, who is the bread of life, whose flesh and blood are meat and drink indeed, is set forth to them; who are kindly invited, and are heartily welcome to his table; which table of his is graced and adorned, or at least should be, not with the weed; or thorns and briars of scandalous and profane sinners, who eat: and drink unworthily; but with the lilies of precious saints and true believers, who sit as olive-plants, or rather are set as lilies about it. Though I should rather think, that these are intended in the following verse.

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