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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter Five Verse 13

by James Durham

Verse 13. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers; his lips like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.

The fourth and fifth instances of Christ's loveliness are in this verse. The fourth is, that 'his cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers:' the cheeks, being comely, are a special part of the loveliness of the face: his cheeks are here commended from two things, first, they are 'as a bed of spices,' that is, like garden-beds furnished with excellent smelling and refreshful spices: it sets out, 1. A proportionable height of them, as cheeks are in the face, and as beds are higher than the rest of the ground. 2. A preciousness and sweetness of spirit-refreshing savour, as such beds use to yield to those who walk in a garden. The second commendation is, 'as sweet flowers,' or as the words may be read, as flowers of perfume: it tends to the same purpose, but holds forth an abundance of delight, to the spiritual sense of smelling in the believer, when Christ is made the object of it; O the sweet savour he finds in him! It is fit to be sober here, these excellencies being mysteries: it is not unlike that lesser glimpses of Christ's manifestations, whereby he makes himself known, may be understood here; as if she said, he is so lovely, that the least glimpse or waffe of him, when it is seen, if it were but of his cheek, is very delightsome: and this sense may be gathered, 1. From this, that the cheek is a part of the face and countenance, yet not the full countenance; now by seeing his face and beholding his countenance, often in scripture (and it is like also, verse 15,) is understood his most sensible manifestations of himself to his people; by proportion then the cheeks would hold forth the same, though in a lesser measure and lower degree. 2. It makes well for the scope of commending Christ above all, whose incomparable worth by his manifestations, is much evidenced and confirmed to his people, and when a little glimpse of him doth this, how much more would a full view of him demonstrate it? and indeed such a view doth effectually demonstrate it to those who have experimentally known the excellency that is in him, although others who are unaquaint with his face, do therefore undervalue him, which may be hinted at as a cause of their so doing. 3. This agrees with the commendation, which sets him forth in this as pleasant to the spiritual sense of smelling, and so would imply, that it must be somewhat whereby Christ becomes sensibly sweet and refreshful, as his sensible manifestations make him more delightsome and refreshing to the soul's senses, than flowers of perfume are to the bodily senses; therefore is his love compared to 'ointment,' chap. 1:3, and elsewhere; however, these things are certain, 1. That the least glimpse of Christ's countenance is exceeding refreshful and savoury to the spiritual senses. 2. That Christ's excellencies are delightsome to all the spiritual senses, to the smell as well as to the eye, ear, &c. The whole soul, and all its faculties have abundant matter in him, for delighting and refreshing them all. 3. The more senses be exercised on Christ, and the more sensible (to speak so) he become unto us, he will be the more lovely and pleasant: beds of spices, and flowers of perfume in a garden, to them that lie amongst them, are not so savoury as Christ is, when the senses of the soul are exercised to discern him.

The fifth thing instanced is 'his lips;' the bride's lips were spoken of, chap. 4:3,11. and cleared to signify her speech: by proportion they hold forth in him the loveliness of his word, wherein he is especially lovely, in that he magnifies it above all his name, Psalm 138:2, and makes it often sweet as the honey and the honey comb to his people. This may be looked on, 1. As it respects the matter spoken by him, out of whose mouth many gracious words proceeded (while in the flesh) even to the admiration of his hearers, Luke 4:22, so that upon conviction they say, 'Never man spoke as this man speaks,' John 7:46. Or, 2. It may look to Christ's manner of speaking, and his fitness to communicate his mind to his people (as lips are the organs of speaking) so he hath 'grace poured into his lips' Psalm 45:2, that makes all his words gracious, as being formed or anointed by it. Thus it takes in that holy art, skill, and dexterity, wherewith Christ is furnished, to speak for the consolation of a believer, especially under sad exercies; as it is, Isa. 50:4. 'He hath the tongue of the learned, to speak a word in season to him that is weary:' both these in the result come to one; and this being a special piece of Christ's loveliness to his people, conducing exceedingly to the bride's scope here, and the analogy being clear, and lips being frequently made use of in scripture to signify speech or words, we conceive that they may well be taken so here, especially considering, that all the parts of the commendation will agree well to his words. 1. They are 'like lilies,' that is, pleasant and savoury; so words spoken in season are often called pleasant and sweet like honey, Prov. 16:24, yea, they are said to be 'like apples of gold in pictures of silver,' Prov. 25:11. His words then may well be compared to lilies. 2. They are not common words, therefore it must not be ordinary lilies that will set them forth; but they are like 'lilies dropping sweet-smelling myrrh:' such lilies we are not acquaint with; and nature though excellent in its effects, yet comes short in furnishing fit resemblances to represent Christ, and what is in him, to the full. These 'lilies dropping myrrh' signify, 1. A savouriness and cordial efficacy in the matter, like myrrh proving comfortable to those it falls or drops upon. 2. 'Dropping' shows abundance, seasonableness, and continuedness therein, so as he still furnisheth such strengthening efficacy and influence, as if it were ever dropping, and never dried up; as the phrase was, chap. 4:11. All these agree well, either to Christ the speaker, who never wants a seasonable word; or to the word spoken, which, in respect of its effects, endures for ever.

This must be an excellent Beloved (saith she) who speaks much, and never a word falls from his lips, but it is precious and savoury, like any cordial to the souls of his people, especially in their fainting fits; and there is ever some good word to be gotten from him, far from the rough speeches that many use, but O, so pleasant and kindly as all his words are! Observe. 1. There is a special loveliness in our Lord Jesus' words to his people; how much of this appears throughout the 4th chapter of this Song? and what love appears in all his promises! Yea, in the titles that he gives to his people, every one is (as it were) big with child of strong consolation to them. 2. Christ's words have a special refreshing efficacy in them, and can comfort, refresh and sustain drooping sick souls; he sends out his word and it healeth them. 3. Those who love Christ himself truly, have also an high esteem of his word, and are much delighted with that; and where there is little esteem of his word, there is but little esteem of himself: they who have tasted the sweetness of the word, do highly esteem of Christ himself. 4. The word of Christ is as Christ's own lips, and doth sweetly set out his thoughts of love to sinners; it is good reading of Christ's loveliness out of his own word, and from his own mouth. 5. Where there hath been a sweetness felt in the word, it should be turned over to the commendation of Christ that spoke it, as a proof of the reality of his excellent worth. 6. The word is never rightly made use of, though it should fill the head with knowledge, till it be savoury to the inward man and spiritual senses; and it is that which makes it lovely, when the virtue and consolation that flows from it is felt. 7. All the consolations of the word, they come not out at once, neither can we so receive them, but it drops by little and little in continuance; and therefore daily should men draw from these wells of salvation. 8. Observe from the scope, that Christ's word, known by experience, will lift and set Christ up in the heart beyond all beloveds; and that the unacquaintedness of many with Christ's lips, and the consolations that abound in his word, makes them so ready to slight him, and set up their idols above him. The scope saith further, that she was acquaint with his words, and the refreshfulness of them, and in this she is differenced from others. Whence, Observe, 9. That believers are acquainted with the sweetness of Christ's words, otherwise than any in the world are; Christ is another thing to them, and his word is so also, than to all the world beside: it is a good sign, where Christ's lips are so lovely.



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