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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter Five Verse 15

by James Durham

Verse 15. His legs are as pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold; his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.

The eighth and ninth particulars of Christ's commendation are in verse 15. The first of them here com mended is 'his legs:' the word 'legs,' comes from a root in the original, that signifieth to walk; and so takes in thighs and feet, which are also useful in motion. In scripture, and by analogy, they are made use of to signify these two, 1. A man's way in the series of his carriage and deportment, as ordinarily his life is called a walk: so, Eccl. 5:1. 'Take heed unto thy feet,' that is, to thy carriage; hence the 'iniquities of the heels' are spoken of, Psalm. 49:5, to set out men's defects, that cleave to them in their conversation, as their feet leave prints and footsteps behind them in their walking. 2. This metaphor signifieth strength and activity, Psalm 147:10, 'The Lord delights not in the strength of an horse, nor in the legs of a man;' wherefore (very probably) Eccl. 12:3, they are called 'the strong men,' because they sustain or bear up the body: here being applied to Christ, we conceive they signify his way, or administration of providence, which he useth with his people, it being by his dispensations that he walks amongst them. Hence the series of common providence is so often in scripture called the way of the Lord, as Ezek. 18:26, 'The Lord's way is equal,' his carriage in his dispensations is still just, opposite to their way or walk, which is there called unequal: and the dispensation of grace is called a way, Rom. 11:33, 'How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out?' which take in the contrivance, and administration of his grace, as the scope there doth clear. His way is more general and comprehensive than his works, and takes in these three (for which it is called, a way.) 1. His design and end, that he proposeth to himself. 2. His wise and powerful plot in contriving and applying means suitable thereunto, for bringing it about, especially the principle (to say so) by which he walks and works, to wit, his wisdom, power and love. 3. His convoy of, and the progress which he makes in these by which he is ever proceeding towards his end, as a man doth in his way by walking with his legs in all these respects, the Lord's way of carrying on his design is said to be unsearchable: this we take as intended here, to set forth and commend the gracious and glorious steps of the Lord, in the administration of his grace, both in its contrivance and application amongst his people, whereby his wisdom, power, and goodness are in these paths of his (that are all mercy and truth to his own, Psalm 25:10,) made exceeding lovely and stately, as the commendation following imports. This is confirmed, 1. By the analogy that is betwixt the legs and walking, and the frequent use that the scripture makes of this similitude for that end, and no other thing can suit so well. 2. In Rev. 2:18, where Christ's legs and feet are spoken of, with a commendation not unlike what follows here, namely, that they are 'like fine brass,' as his eyes are expounded, verse 23, by this, that 'he searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins;' so his feet are set out by this, 'that he renders to every one according to his works,' that is, he keeps an equal and just way in his administration towards every one. 3. The scope likewise confirms this, Christ being by his way to his people commendable above all, and this being a special commendation of his, that 'all his works are perfect, and all his ways are judgment,' Deut. 32.

4. As also the property attributed to his legs, and from which they are commended, will clear this, which is, that they 'are like pillars of marble:' marble is a stone that is firm, good and pleasant, therefore was it prepared by David, for the temple, I Chron. 29:2; 'pillars' signify strength, orderliness and beauty, as was cleared on chap. 3:10, which may be applied here: so pillars of marble say, that his ways are curiously, skilfully, and securely contrived; and wisely, dexterously and infallibly executed, and firmly settled like pillars, and that of marble, for unmoveableness: the amplification of the commendation confirms this also; they are not only like pillars of marble, but also like pillars 'set on sockets of fine gold.' Pillars are durable, according to the basis or foundation upon which they are set and founded, now gold (as often hath been said) signifieth preciousness and solidity, so all of them are settled and fixed on a good and precious ground, which cannot fail, therefore they cannot shake, slide, nor slip, but prosper he must in his ways, and nothing can mar his design, 'for he is of one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, that he doth,' Job 23:13. Yet not only are his feet or legs of brass, (which shews severity against enemies, in his treading on them, Dan. 10:6) but the sockets are of gold, as his head was, verse 11. All is of gold that is in him, he is a golden Mediator and Beloved from head to foot, whereas others are clay beloveds: the sockets are of gold, to shew his graciousness to his people, as Psalm 25:10, all his ways are settled on mercy and truth, all his decrees anent them are made lovely and sure by grace, and so cannot be but precious and excellent as to them.

Observe. 1. Our Lord Jesus hath a design, a gracious design, that he is carrying on amongst his people, and he is ever promoving therein for the end which he hath proposed; he is not like the idols of the Gentiles, Psalm 115:7, 'which have feet and walk not,' but as he sees with his eyes, and works with his hands, so doth he walk and make progress with his legs. 2. Christ's way with his people is a most excellent and stately way; or, in all his convoy of grace towards his people, there is a special excellency shining; 'All his ways and works are holy and righteous,' Psalm 145:17; 'just and true,' Rev. 15:3. Gracious and loving, even 'all mercy and truth,' Psalm 25:10. This King of saints is marvellous in his way of grace, as he is in all his works. 3. Christ's purpose cannot fail, neither can his design be altered, the contrivance thereof is so wise, and the execution so powerful, he can not but attain his point. 4. However men may quarrel with Christ's way, and say it is 'not equal,' as Ezek. 18:25. And although his way may be sometimes 'in the deep waters,' and not discernible, Psalm 77:19, yet it is ever ordered in deep wisdom, that there can be nothing more just, holy and glorious, so that there is no reason to complain thereof; and this holds, not only in one step or two, but in the whole series of his way. 5. A right sight of Christ's wise, glorious, and omnipotent way of grace, will make him singular in the estimation of his people, and put him above all other beloveds, whose ways are neither for wisdom, nor stability, any way comparable to his; for, all the counsels and designs of the world beside his, will come to nought, and be made, nill they will they, subservient to his; clay idols have their breath in their nostrils, and in that same very day 'when it goeth out, their thoughts perish,' Psalm 146:4, but it is not so with his, they are more solidly founded, and these strong legs, that are of marble, can neither he bowed nor broken: it must then be most sure and safe for the Lord's people to drive this as their design, to side and share with Christ in his designs; and it must be a most desperate thing to drive contrary designs to him, whose 'legs are as pillars of marble,' and before whom none can stand. 6. Where there is respect to Christ, there will be an high estimation of his way; and it is a good sign of an especial esteem of Christ, when his ways are admired and loved.

The ninth particular instance, brought to prove that he is the chiefest among ten thousand, is, that 'his countenance is like Lebanon:' the word 'countenance,' as it is in the original, comes from a root that signifieth to see, therefore countenance is used in scripture, not only to signify the face, but the whole stature and presentation of a person, or that which gives a full sight of one in all his parts together; and so it is here, and differs from the cheeks mentioned, verse 13, as being more extensive and comprehensive: therefore that phrase, which, 2 Sam. 22:12, is rendered a goodly man, or man of countenance (as it is in the original) is, 1 Chron. 11:23, (where that same story is recorded) expressed by this, that the Egyptian was a man of stature, as if it were said, a brave personage of a man, and so it takes in face, legs, body and altogether, when all these are so proportioned, as they make one a person goodly to be seen and looked on: now this being applied to Christ, as subjoined to the particulars formerly mentioned, we conceive it takes in his matchless stateliness, as it results from all his properties together: so that not only this or that part of Christ is lovely, but whole Christ, when seen, is exceedingly stately and lovely to the view and faith of a discerning believer, whatever, others think of him; so then, the meaning is, 'Ask ye what my Beloved is?' (saith she) as all his parts are beautiful, severally considered, so all being put together, he is a most stately and lovely object to behold, when he gives a full view of his countenance. It sets out then, a more full view of Christ, or Christ in a more full view, as if not only a man's head or legs were seen, but his whole stature, whereby he is more fully discernible: thus Christ's countenance in scripture, is put to signify his manifestations to his people; and here, being subjoined to the cheeks, as more extensive, it signifieth more full manifestations, whereby a view (as, it were) of whole Christ is attained at once, by the believer's faith; as, 'by faith,' Heb. 11:27, Moses is said to have seen him that is invisible: and this will agree well with the scope, and the commendation following, which is in two things, 1. It is 'as Lebanon,' a most pleasant, stately hill; and therefore, that which is excellent, is often compared to it, as was said on chap. 4:8,11,15. 2. It's amplified, that it is 'excellent as the cedars:' they were useful, stately, and tall trees, especially those that grew in Lebanon; the word is, elect, or choice as the cedars, which agrees well with a goodly presentation, to be tall, straight and stately, as they were: therefore the Bride's stature, is compared to a palm-tree, chap. 7:7. In a word, my Beloved (when seen) looks excellently and passing well (saith she) so as there is no other beloved in the world, that hath such an aspect as he; who can look on him and not love him?

Observe. 1. Although there is no fully comprehensive view of Christ to be gotten here, even by the faith of a believer (while we are upon the earth we cannot see him as he is, that being reserved for heaven) yet there are more full uptakings of him attainable, even here-away, than ordinarily believers meet with; yea, such full views of him are to be had, which in respect of our other ordinary attainments, may be called, a beholding of his countenance, whereas these are but a beholding of his cheeks; for, he hath a countenance which is discernible: neither doth the Bride speak of that she never saw, but of what she hath seen; and it imports a more full, near, thorough and distinct sight of him than is usual. 2. There is no such lovely, delightsome, spiritually gallant, stately and glorious object, as our Lord Jesus, complexly considered as in himself; and there will be no sight more satisfying to a believer than this, when admitted to behold it. 3. All other beloveds, whatever they be in themselves, are yet exceedingly, nay, infinitely short of him, when he is seen; this differenceth him from them all, the more and the better other beloveds be seen, they are found to be the more feckless, insignificant and little worth; but the more full view be gotten of Christ, he is found to be the more excellent. 4. Slight and passing views of Christ, make men think the less of him, whereas more full, distinct and near beholding of him doth heighten the esteem of him, and lessen the esteem of all others beside him. 5. Faith in Christ will make a real impression of him, and of his excellency upon the heart of a believer, even as if he had been seen by sense: therefore she speaks so of his countenance; and it is a good sign, to be distinct and confident in our apprehensions of Christ's excellencies.



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