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My beloved is all radiant and ruddy,

distinguished among ten thousand.

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Enquiring after the Excellencies of Christ; The Church's Confidence in Christ.

9 What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?   10 My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.   11 His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.   12 His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.   13 His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.   14 His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.   15 His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.   16 His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Here is, I. The question which the daughters of Jerusalem put to the spouse concerning her beloved, in answer to the charge she had given them, v. 9. Observe, 1. The respectful title they give to the spouse: O thou fairest among women! Our Lord Jesus makes his spouse truly amiable, not only in his eyes, but in the eyes of all the daughters of Jerusalem. The church is the most excellent society in the world, the communion of saints the best communion, and the beauty of the sanctuary a transcendent beauty. The saints are the most excellent people; holiness is the symmetry of the soul; it is its agreement with itself; it recommends itself to all that are competent judges of it. Even those that have little acquaintance with Christ, as those daughters of Jerusalem here, cannot but see an amiable beauty in those that bear his image, which we should love wherever we see it, though in different dresses. 2. Their enquiry concerning her beloved: "What is thy beloved more than another beloved? If thou wilt have us to find him for thee, give us his marks, that we may know him when we see him." (1.) Some take it for a scornful question, blaming her for making such ado about him: "Why shouldst thou be so passionate in enquiring after thy beloved, more than others are after theirs? Why shouldst thou be so set upon him, more than others that yet have a kindness for him?" Those that are zealous in religion are men wondered at by such as are indifferent to it. The many careless ones laugh at the few that are solicitous and serious. "What is there in him that is so very charming, more than in another person? If he be gone, thou, who art the fairest among women, wilt soon have another with an equal flame." Note, Carnal hearts see nothing excellent or extraordinary in the Lord Jesus, in his person or offices, in his doctrine or in his favours; as if there were no more in the knowledge of Christ, and in communion with him, than in the knowledge of the world and in its conversation. (2.) Others rather take it for a serious question, and suppose that those who put it intended, [1.] To comfort the spouse, who, they knew, would recover new spirits if she did but talk awhile of her beloved; nothing would please her better, nor give a more powerful diversion to her grief, than to be put upon the pleasing task of describing the beauties of her beloved. [2.] To inform themselves; they had heard, in general, that he was excellent and glorious, but they desired to know more particularly. They wondered what moved the spouse to charge them concerning her beloved with so much vehemence and concern, and therefore concluded there must be something more in him than in another beloved, which they are willing to be convinced of. Then there begin to be some hopes of people when they begin to enquire concerning Christ and his transcendent perfections. And sometimes the extraordinary zeal of one, in enquiring after Christ, may be a means to provoke many (2 Cor. ix. 2), as the apostle, by the faith of the Gentiles, would stir up the Jews to a holy emulation, Rom. xi. 14. See John iv. 10.

II. The account which the spouse gives of her beloved in answer to this question. We should always be ready to instruct and assist those that are enquiring after Christ. Experienced Christians, who are well acquainted with Christ themselves, should do all they can to make others acquainted with him.

1. She assures them, in general, that he is one of incomparable perfections and unparalleled worth (v. 10): "Do not you know my beloved? Can the daughters of Jerusalem be ignorant of him that is Jerusalem's crown and crowned head? Let me tell you then," (1.) That he has every thing in him that is lovely and amiable: My beloved is white and ruddy, the colours that make up a complete beauty. This points not at any extraordinary beauty of his body, when he should be incarnate (it was never said of the child Jesus, as of the child Moses, when he was born, that he was exceedingly fair, Acts vii. 20; nay, he had no form nor comeliness, Isa. liii. 2); but his divine glory, and the concurrence of every thing in him as Mediator, to make him truly lovely in the eyes of those that are enlightened to discern spiritual things. In him we may behold the beauty of the Lord; he was the holy child Jesus; that was his fairness. If we look upon him as made to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, he appears, in all, very amiable. His love to us renders him lovely. He is white in the spotless innocency of his life, ruddy in the bloody sufferings he went through at his death,—white in his glory, as God (when he was transfigured his raiment was white as the light), ruddy in his assuming the nature of man, Adamred earth,white in his tenderness towards his people, ruddy in his terrible appearances against his and their enemies. His complexion is a very happy composition. (2.) That he has that loveliness in him which is not to be found in any other: He is the chief among ten thousand, a nonsuch for beauty, fairer than the children of men, than any of them, than all of them; there is none like him, nor any to be compared with him; every thing else is to be accounted loss and dung in comparison of him, Phil. iii. 8. He is higher than the kings of the earth (Ps. lxxxix. 27) and has obtained a more excellent name than any of the principalities and powers of the upper or lower world, Phil. ii. 9; Heb. i. iv.. He is a standard-bearer among ten thousand (so the word is), the tallest and comeliest of the company. He is himself lifted up as an ensign (Isa. xi. 10), to whom we must be gathered and must always have an eye. And there is all the reason in the world why he should have the innermost and uppermost place in our souls who is the fairest of ten thousands in himself and the fittest of twenty thousands for us.

2. She gives a particular detail of his accomplishments, conceals not his power or comely proportion. Every thing in Christ is amiable. Ten instances she here gives of his beauty, which we need not be nice in the application of, lest the wringing of them bring forth blood and prove the wresting of them. The design, in general, is to show that he is every way qualified for his undertaking, and has all that in him which may recommend him to our esteem, love, and confidence. Christ's appearance to John (Rev. i. 13, &c.) may be compared with the description which the spouse gives of him here, the scope of both being to represent him transcendently glorious, that is, both great and gracious, made lovely in the eyes of believers and making them happy in himself. (1.) His head is as the most fine gold. The head of Christ is God (1 Cor. xi. 3), and it is promised to the saints that the Almighty shall be their gold (Job xxii. 25), their defence, their treasure; much more was he so to Christ, in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, Col. ii. 9. Christ's head bespeaks his sovereign dominion over all and his vital influence upon his church and all its members. This is as gold, gold; the former word in the original signifies shining gold, the latter strong solid gold; Christ's sovereignty is both beautiful and powerful. Nebuchadnezzar's monarchy is compared to a head of gold (Dan. ii. 38), because it excelled all the other monarchies, and so does Christ's government. (2.) His locks are bushy and black, not black as the tents of Kedar, whose blackness was their deformity, to which therefore the church compares herself (ch. i. 5), but black as a raven, whose blackness is his beauty. Sometimes Christ's hair is represented as white (Rev. i. 14), denoting his eternity, that he is the ancient of days; but here as black and bushy, denoting that he is ever young and that there is in him no decay, nothing that waxes old. Every thing that belongs to Christ is amiable in the eyes of a believer, even his hair is so; it was pity that it should be wet, as it was, with the dew, and these locks with the drops of the night, while he waited to be gracious, v. 2. (3.) His eyes are as the eyes of doves, fair and clear, and chaste and kind, by the rivers of waters, which doves delight in, and in which, as in a glass, they see themselves. They are washed, to make them clean, washed with milk, to make them white, and fitly set, neither starting out nor sunk in. Christ is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, for they are doves' eyes, Hab. i. 13. All believers speak with pleasure of the omniscience of Christ, as the spouse here of his eyes; for, though it be terrible to his enemies as a flame of fire (Rev. i. 14), yet it is amiable and comfortable to his friends, as doves' eyes, for it is a witness to their integrity. Thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee. Blessed and holy are those that walk always as under the eye of Christ. (4.) His cheeks (the rising of the face) are as a bed of spices, raised in the gardens, which are the beauty and wealth of them, and as sweet flowers, or towers of sweetness. There is that in Christ's countenance which is amiable in the eyes of all the saints, in the least glimpse of him, for the cheek is but a part of the face. The half discoveries Christ makes of himself to the soul are reviving and refreshing, fragrant above the richest flowers and perfumes. (5.) His lips are like lilies, not white like lilies, but sweet and pleasant. Such are the words of his lips to all that are sanctified, sweeter than honey and the honey-comb; such are the kisses of his lips, all the communications of his grace; grace is poured into his lips, and those that heard him wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. His lips are as lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh. Never any lilies in nature dropped myrrh, but nothing in nature can fully set forth the beauty and excellence of Christ, and therefore, to do it by comparison, there must be a composition of images. (6.) His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl, a noted precious stone, v. 14. Great men had their hands adorned with gold rings on their fingers, set with diamonds or other precious stones, but, in her eye, his hands themselves were as gold rings; all the instances of his power, the works of his hands, all the performances of his providence and grace, are all rich, and pure, and precious, as gold, as the precious onyx and the sapphire, all fitted to the purpose for which they were designed as gold rings to the finger, and all beautiful and very becoming, as rings set with beryl. His hands, which are stretched forth both to receive his people and to give to them, are thus rich and comely. (7.) His bowels are as bright ivory, for so it should be rendered, rather than his belly, for it is the same word that was used for bowels (v. 4) and is often ascribed to God (as Isa. lxiii. 15; Jer. xxxi. 20), and so it denotes his tender compassion and affection for his spouse, and the love he has to her even in her desolate and deserted state. This love of his is like bright ivory, finely polished, and richly overlaid with sapphires. The love itself is strong and firm, and the instances and circumstances of it are bright and sparkling, and add much to the inestimable value of it. (8.) His legs are as pillars of marble, so strong, and stately, and no disgrace, no, not to the sockets of fine gold upon which they are set, v. 15. This bespeaks his stability and stedfastness; where he sets his foot he will fix it; he is able to bear all the weight of the government that is upon his shoulders, and his legs will never fail under him. This sets forth the stateliness and magnificence of the goings of our God, our King, in his sanctuary (Ps. lxviii. 24), and the steadiness and evenness of all his dispensations towards his people. The ways of the Lord are equal; they are all mercy and truth; these are the pillars of marble, more lasting than the pillars of heaven. (9.) His countenance (his port and mien) is as Lebanon, that stately hill; his aspect beautiful and charming, like the prospect of that pleasant forest or park, excellent as the cedars, which, in height and strength, excel other trees, and are of excellent use. Christ is a goodly person; the more we look upon him the more beauty we shall see in him. (10.) His mouth is most sweet; it is sweetness itself; it is sweetnesses (so the word is); it is pure essence, nay, it is the quintessence of all delights, v. 16. The words of his mouth are all sweet to a believer, sweet as milk to babes (to whom it is agreeable), as honey to those that are grown up (Ps. cxix. 103), to whom it is delicious. The kisses of his mouth, all the tokens of his love, have a transcendent sweetness in them, and are most delightful to those who have their spiritual senses exercised. To you that believe he is precious.

3. She concludes with a full assurance both of faith and hope, and so gets the mastery of her trouble. (1.) Here is a full assurance of faith concerning the complete beauty of the Lord Jesus: "He is altogether lovely. Why should I stand to mention particulars, when throughout there is nothing amiss?" She is sensible she does him wrong in the particular descriptions of him, and comes far short of the dignity and merit of the subject, and therefore she breaks off with the general encomium: He is truly lovely, he is wholly so; there is nothing in him but what is amiable, and nothing amiable but what is in him. He is all desires; he has all in him that one can desire. And therefore all her desire is towards him, and she seeks him thus carefully and cannot rest contented in the want of him. Who can but love him who is so lovely? (2.) Here is a full assurance of hope concerning her own interest in him: "This is my beloved, and this is my friend; and therefore wonder not that I thus long after him." See with what a holy boldness she claims relation to him, and then with what a holy triumph she proclaims it. It is property that sweetens excellency. To see Christ, and not to see him as ours, would be rather a torture than a happiness; but to see one that is thus lovely, and to see him as ours, is a complete satisfaction. Here is a true believer, [1.] Giving an entire consent to Christ: "He is mine, my Lord and my God (John xx. 28), mine according to the tenour of the gospel-covenant, mine in all relations, bestowed upon me, to be all that to me that my poor soul stands in need of." [2.] Taking an entire complacency in Christ. It is spoken of here with an air of triumph: "This is he whom I have chosen, and to whom I have given up myself. None but Christ, none but Christ. This is he on whom my heart is, for he is my best-beloved; this is he in whom I trust, and from whom I expect all good, for this is my friend." Note, Those that make Christ their beloved shall have him their friend; he has been, is, and will be, a special friend to all believers. He loves those that love him; and those that have him their friend have reason to glory in him, and speak of him with delight. "Let others be governed by the love of the world, and seek their happiness in its friendship and favours, This is my beloved and this is my friend. Others may do as they please, but this is my soul's choice, my soul's rest, my life, my joy, my all; this is he whom I desire to live and die with."