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by James Durham
Verse 10. My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.
From verse 10, to the end (which contains the fourth part of the chapter) the Bride speaks: and in answer to the daughters of Jerusalem their question) in a sweet, pithy, taking manner, commends her Beloved. She is not long in returning answer to their question, as being fully clear and ready to demonstrate Christ, her Beloved, his worth above all: and as impatient that any other should be put in competition with him, (especially by the daughters of Jerusalem, whose edification she studies by this to promote) instantly she steps in with a large commendation of Christ, (tho' in few words) whereby she doth so demonstrate him to be an object infinitely worthy to be her soul's Beloved beyond all others, that chap. 6:1, they as convinced yield, acknowledging that her Beloved was preferable to all other beloveds, and that therefore they are engaged to love and seek him with her.
In this commendation, she, 1. Asserts Christ's preferableness in the general, verse 10. 2. She confirms and illustrates it in particulars, to verse 16. And then, 3. verse 16, sums it up in an universal expression, as being in its particulars inexpressible. Lastly, Having fully proved her assertion, she resumes the conclusion as unanswerable: 'This' (saith she) 'is my Beloved,' a singular beloved indeed, and therefore it is no wonder that I am so serious in pursuing after him, and so sick of love to him, and so much pained at the very heart for the want of him.
The first general in this 10th verse sets out Christ positively, and comparatively: do you ask (saith she) what my Beloved is? He is a non-such, an incomparable Beloved, 'he is white and ruddy,' O so lovely as he is in himself! and being 'compared with all others, he hath the preeminence by far, as being 'the chiefest among ten thousand.' By 'white and ruddy' we are to conceive Christ's qualifications, according to the strain of the allegory, there being no bodily qualification set out here, Christ at that time not being incarnate, yet even then was he white and ruddy; the due and just mixture of these colours maketh a man lovely, and evidenceth a good complexion of body: so by them in Christ is understood a concurrence of all fit qualifications and excellencies, that may make him lovely to the soul, when by faith looked upon, and taken up, there is sweet beauty and comeliness, or a comely beautiful sweetness that lustres and shines in him, through the excellent qualifications wherewith he is furnished, as the husband of his church, that ravisheth spiritual affections far beyond the greatest beauty that can be in the fairest face; for, indeed he is fairer than the sons of men: there is nothing that may make a Mediator lovely but it is here. Again, as if that did not fully set out his amiableness, she adds, 'He is the chiefest among ten thousand:' this is a definite great number for an indefinite; in sum it is this, there are many beloveds indeed in the world, but compare them all with Christ, they are nothing to him: without all controversy he is the chiefest, 1 Cor. 8:5,6, For 'though there be gods many, and lords many' (to the world) 'yet to us there is but one God, and one Lord Jesus;' in all the world there is but one Christ. The word used here is, be is the standard-bearer, or it may be rendered passively, he is standarded (so to speak) above ten thousand; all tending to the same scope; love declares its rhetoric in seeking words to prefer Christ, as having indignation that his precedency and pre-eminence (who is 'above all things,' Col. 1:17,) should so much as once be questioned: it is like, that in these times the most comely persons were chosen to carry the standard, a piece of dignity being thereby put upon them; so then, if all the most choice, comely, and excellent persons in the world were mustered together, Christ would be preferred eminently and deservedly above them all.
Whence, Observe, 1. That Christ is the most lovely and excellent object that men can set their eyes on, that they can cast their love and affection upon: there is not such an one as Christ, either for the spiritual soul-ravishing beauty that is in him, or the excellent desirable effects that flow from him. O what a singular description is it which follows, if it were understood! 2. Christ is the most singularly excellent Husband that ever was closed with: under that relation he is commended here, as singularly lovely, and loving; it is a most honourable, comfortable, happy, and every way satisfying match to have him for a Husband. 3. Christ's worth in itself is not expressible, and whatever he can be compared with, he doth exceedingly surpass it. 4. Where right thoughts of Christ are, there is nothing admitted to compete with him, other excellencies and beloveds are in their greatest beauty darkened beside him; he is set up as chief, and they are not to be taken notice of beside him, but to be accounted loss and dung. 5. Christ's absence, when believers are right, will never lessen their esteem of him, but even then believers will be warm and fresh in their love to him, and high in their esteem of him. 6. Neither will the great mistakes of others shake believers that have a thorough esteem of Christ's worth, but will rather with holy zeal awake them to commend him the more. 7. As where there is true love to Christ, there Christ will be lovely; so when he is looked on as lovely, that makes the heart to flow and abound with holy rhetoric in commendations of him. 8. True love to Christ, and to others for his sake, will not suffer one to despise the weakness of another, but make them rather take occasion from it, to honour him and edify them so much the more, as the Bride doth here in answering the question proposed. 9. The more nearly and fully any thing be compared with Christ, though it be otherwise lovely, yet then it will be seen to be nothing, he so infinitely excels all things he can be compared with; and it is ignorance of him that makes other things get such a place in men's affections: but, when once they are set for against him, he is found preferable, as incomparably chief, for dignity, riches, and satisfaction, or whatsoever is delightsome, desirable, and truly excellent, verse 11,12,13, &c.
She passeth from the general, to demonstrate it in particulars, and therein she insists in the following verses. If it should be asked, why she descends into particulars, especially now, considering her deserted case? I answer, for these good reasons, 1. That she might the more fully demonstrate, and the more satisfyingly unfold Christ's worth; for, his worth cannot be soon nor easily told, nor conceived, nor soon believed by others, it needs to be demonstrated, amplified, and insisted upon; yet, his worth can bide the trial: there is no truth may more fully and demonstratively be made out than this, that Christ is a most excellent object of love, and infinitely preferable to all others. 2. This is for the edifying of the daughters of Jerusalem, and in reference to their question, that they might be the more convinced and satisfied anent the incomparable worth and matchless excellency of her Beloved, she brancheth it forth and insists upon it, that so a deeper impression of it might be left upon their hearts, Observe. 1. There is nothing more useful for the gaining and edifying of others, than to help them to the right uptaking of Christ's worth. 2. That is a great part of the work that should take up Christians in their fellowship together, to be spending their mutual conferences on that subject for one another's instruction. 3. To edify another, is no diversion from pursuing after him, to souls that love Christ, and would be helped by others to meet with him; this is well consistent with her pursuing after sensible presence for herself, to stay a while instructing them. A third reason of her insisting is, that it is suitable unto, and agrees well with her own sad condition, when he is away, she loves to think and speak of him, and of his loveliness, and that gives her some ease.
Observe. 1. Where love to Christ is, there will be a delight in speaking of him, and setting out his commendation, even when he is absent; it is a kind of ease to tell over his qualifications when he is absent. 2. It is a good diversion under a deserted condition, and a suitable way to an outgate, to be dwelling rather upon the excellency of Christ, than on the comfortless aggravations of our own sad condition; this is more honourable to Christ, more edifying to others, and more pleasant to ourselves: O, it is sweet to think of him! It is more useful also for confirming of our faith in him, for warming our affections to him, and for keeping the mind stayed in dependance on him for the outgate; every attribute or property of his is a cordial to the soul fainting under a deserted case. 4. Her insisting on this subject, shews the nature of true love to Christ, that a soul affected with it, being once entered to speak of this theme or subject (namely the excellency of Christ) it expatiates on it, and is not soon withdrawn from it; this (to say so) is the very native element of it: and it doth the heart good to enumerate, and tell over distinctly the commendable qualifications and excellencies of Christ: all which (being his own) are unspeakably delightsome and refreshing to reckon: if there were any good measure of love to Christ in men's hearts, they would not be easily withdrawn from meditating on him, nor from speaking of him; and the great haunt that other things have in our hearts, and the rarity of any expression that tends to Christ's commendation, shews plainly that there are (alas!) other beloveds abounding with us besides him.
In the opening of the following particulars, we would consider, 1. The scope, which is to demonstrate, that Christ Jesus is altogether lovely and desirable beyond all other things that the hearts of men are set upon; the question proposed, ver. 9, and the closing answer to it, ver. 16 makes this clear. This then being the scope, these particulars must be so taken up, as they best contribute to clear this scope, and so must necessarily imply the excellencies that are in Jesus Christ; the Mediator himself being as the body, and the several qualifications, properties, and excellencies wherewith he is furnished, being as the several members, and parts of that body. Now, seeing Jesus Christ is so excellent himself, and these being instanced as the choice excellencies that are in him, they must needs be exceeding and passing excellent, as the aggreging and heightning of every commendation doth shew: there will be need therefore of much sobriety, holy admiration and reverence, in the opening of them, lest we mishandle so excellent a subject as is the transcendent excellency of our Lord Jesus. 2. That the Spirit intends by these parts, distinct considerations of Christ's loveliness in so many distinct particulars, seems also to be without all question; for the particular enumeration is brought in to demonstrate this general, that he is the chiefest among ten thousand, which is done (as it were) by an induction of so many commendable things that are in him; besides in other scriptures, and especially, Rev. 1:13,14, where our Lord is thus considered, and also in the second and third chapters of that book of the Revelation, particular respect is had to the foresaid description; and these parts are there (being equivalent to them that are here mentioned) expounded of divers attributes and properties of his, and not unlike in many things to the description following, as the particulars will clear. Consider, 3. That it is both difficult and dangerous to be peremptory in the application of these particulars to the object described, it being so exceeding glorious, and the Spirit's expressions so very comprehensive, we dare not so limit the words to one thing, as if they were exclusive of another, nor say this is meant and no other thing; although such and such things as have a necessary connexion with the scope to confirm it, may warrantably be included, and for instances pitched upon, especially when from the analogy that is in the expressions which are borrowed, and from other scriptures, we have some ground to fix upon: but to be sure, the words should be so taken up as they best afford the most solid general doctrines, which are sometimes (because of our darkness, and to prevent our curiosity) to be rested in; for, whatever be meant, it is Christ, and he by these commendations is set forth as most excellent: that all these are to describe a divine person, and no human body, we conceive so clear that it needs no advertisement. 4. All these parts hold him forth, not only as excellent in himself, but as lovely to his people, and as making up their privilege and happiness in having an interest in him to be theirs; and therefore as this is the scope, so it is to be applied as setting out his excellency, and the blessedness of all that have him for theirs; as on the contrary to cry down all other beloveds of the world, of whom these things cannot be said, for they are singularly peculiar to him.
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