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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter Five Verse 16

by James Durham

Verse 16. His mouth is most sweet; yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

The tenth and last particular, commended in him, is in the beginning of the 16th verse, and it is 'his mouth,' which is compared to 'sweetness' or sweetnesses in the plural number. By 'mouth' sometimes is understood the words of the mouth, but it is not so used in this Song. The Bride's words, and his also' are set out by their lips, and it is not like, that that being spoken of, verse 13, is repeated here. Again, the 'mouth,' and its 'sweetness' especially, may be mentioned to signify friendliness and love, or rather the sensible manifestations of these, as the husband doth by kissing his wife; and in this sense is taken, chap. 1:2, and we take that to be aimed at here, to wit, the sweetness of Christ's more immediate manifestations of himself unto the spiritual sense of his people, by 'shedding the love of God abroad in their hearts, by the Holy Ghost,' Rom. 5:5. For, this sensible manifestation of his love is a thing that much commends him to his people, and is their satisfaction, in opposition to all the creature satisfactions that others have, Psalm 4:6,7, therefore it agrees well with the scope. Again, it is a different commendation from any that is mentioned, 1. It differs from his 'lips,' or the comfort that one hath from the word, as from the word (though it is not to be separated from that, but to carry that along with it) yet this is more immediate and sensible, and that is mediate, though real and sure unto faith. 2. It differs from seeing 'his cheeks,' in that this is more full, near and immediate also, she being, as it were, admitted to enjoy Christ's sweet embracements. 3. It differs from 'beholding his countenance,' because that may be, and only can be taken up by faith, beholding him in his excellent qualifications and offices; but this is discernible to the believer's spiritual sense, when Christ applieth his love, as chap. 1:2. In which (to say so) we are more passive, as being fed by him, and having it infused and shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit. If we may in a holy way follow the similitude in a spiritual sense (which is necessary for understanding of the thing) 'kisses of his mouth' are his applying and venting of his love, as one doth by kissing another; this also will agree with the commendation, it's 'most sweet,' it's but one word in the original, in the abstract, and that in the plural number, 'sweetnesses,' to shew the exceeding sweetness and loveliness, the soul-ravishing delight that is in that, to which no similitude or comparison can come up, clearly and perfectly to resemble it, it is very sweetness itself. If we might allude to what Philosophers say of fire in its element, or water in its element, that being there, they are more properly and eminently fire and water; so sweetness is in its element here; or, Christ's mouth is the very element thereof, in respect of its sensible refreshfulness to the spiritual senses of his people, to whom he manifests it. Ask ye then what my Beloved is? (saith she) he is indeed stately to look on; but his mouth, when it is felt in his kissing of his own Bride, by manifesting his love to her sense, there, there, O there, exceeding, unexpressible and unconceivable, delight and satisfaction is to be found!

Observe. 1. Christ hath more near and sensible ways of manifesting himself to the spiritual sense of his people, as if he had a mouth to kiss them. 2. There is nothing comparable to the refreshing sweetness, that these manifestations have with them; it is 'a peace that passeth understanding,' Phil. 4:7, and a 'joy that is unspeakable and full of glory,' 1 Pet. 1:8. 3. This sensible feeling of the sweetness of Christ's mouth, should be aimed at, and sought after by believers; although the manner, measure, time, and other circumstances thereof, should be submitted to him; yet this is not only commendable in itself, but also, as such, is proposed and commended to the daughters of Jerusalem, to be sought after by them. 4. The experimental feeling of this, doth notably demonstrate Christ's worth to the soul that enjoys it, and makes him incomparably sweet and lovely above all things whatsoever, Psalm 4:7. 5. There is no other thing can have any such sweetness or relish to a believer as Christ hath; and to a spiritual taste, the excellency of all created beloveds will be as the white of an egg in comparison of this. Only Christ's mouth is sweetness; and so he differs from all others: and it is a good sign, when our affections, or spiritual senses, can relish nothing but Christ.

Next, it is added, 'yea, he is altogether lovely.' Although she hath spent many sweet words (and indeed there hath been no straitening in her)in commending Christ, and although all her words be sweet, and especially when she draws near the close, her expressions be the more massy and significant, yet as being necessitated to succumb under the great task of describing the excellency of her Beloved, she must give over particulars, and conclude with a general, as if she would say, Would ye know him? O, I, even I cannot tell you all his excellent properties for, he is most justly called 'Wonderful,' Isa. 9:6, but in sum, I may say, 'He is altogether lovely:' the word is, 'he is all desires,' or, 'all he desires:' the word that is rendered 'lovely,' comes from a root that signifieth to covet, as in Josh. 7:21. It is said of Achan, when he saw the 'wedge of gold,' that he coveted it, so it is such a desire as ardently covets the thing desired: and thus Christ is not simply lovely, but of such an attractive excellency, as makes him the proper object of the most ardent and holy-coveting desires, or after which all desires should go forth, as towards the best and most desirable object; the words are meant to express somewhat that is not expressible, or rather the unexpressibleness of that Beloved she had been commending, lest they should think she were satisfied, as if she had fully described him.

We may consider the words several ways, 1. Negatively, as they shew there is nothing in him, but what is desirable: as if she said, 'all he is desires,' there is nothing of any other nature in him, but such as I have mentioned, he is a 'God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he.' 2. Take them positively, and so they shew whatever is in him is exceedingly desirable; go through all his parts, qualifications, attributes and works, whereof I have given you but a hint (saith she) and ye will see them all exceedingly desirable. 3. Take them conclusively or comprehensively, and so while she saith, 'He is all desires,' the meaning is, there is nothing truly desirable, but it is to be found in him, the soul cannot rationally imagine that satisfaction that is not to be found in Christ, otherwise all desires were not in him: this is sweet, even very sweet; what idol is perfect? There are many defects in all other beloveds, but (saith she) my Beloved is perfect: all the beauties and perfections that are scattered among all creatures, are in an eminent and transcendent way gathered together, contracted and to be found in him at once, so that whatever can be desired, whether it be for this life, or that which is to come, whether for sanctification, justification, or consolation, it is eminently to be found in our Lord Jesus, 'in whom all fulness dwells,' Col. 1:19, and who alone is all and in all' to his own, as being 'full of grace and truth,' John 1:14. 4. We may take them exclusively, or privately, as they deny any thing desirable to be in any beloved, but in Christ; he is all, and so consequently they must be nothing, he is altogether lovely, and so they must be altogether loathsome: Christ is never rightly conceived of, nor commended, but where other things come down, evanish and disappear, when compared with him; 'Whom have I in heaven but thee? and I desire none on earth beside thee,' saith the Psalmist, Psalm 70:25, as having full satisfaction, and all that can be wished for in him. It is hard to observe what may be suitable to Christ's loveliness, when the Bride gives it over: but we may say, 1. The more that believers insist on Christ's loveliness, their hearts will warm the more with it, and it will be found to be the greater depth; for, now her expressions grow, till at last they be swallowed up. 2. Where there is true respect to Christ, no commendation of Christ that believers can invent (whatever it be) will be satisfying to them: for, there have been, 1. Many excellent commendations given of Christ, as being like gold, myrrh, spices, &c. Yea, 2. Like such gold, lilies and ivory, as are not in the world; and finally she hath left and given over comparisons, and betaken herself to the abstract, sweetness itself; yet all comes short, and she must quit the thing as unexpressible: it is the very height of soul's love-rhetoric, to close with a kind of holy amazement and admiration, which ends in silence, because they cannot say enough, when they have said all they can say.

O what a lovely object then must Christ Jesus be! They never knew him rightly, who were satisfied with their own apprehensions of him, or expressions concerning him. 3. There is an universal loveliness in Christ, whole Christ is lovely, neither is he to be divided in our apprehension and esteem, but as every thing in him is wonderful and lovely, so is it to be admired and loved; even his lowest sufferings, and seeming infirmities, his frowns and seeming greater austerity, are lovely and profitable; he is altogether lovely. 4. There is a wonderful desirableness in our Lord Jesus, and incomparable satisfaction to be gotten in him; there can be nothing more to draw a soul to love it, than what is here; whatever may be attractive, is here; and there is nothing wanting to satisfy the soul that enjoys him, and hath yielded to his call; to such he is all desires. 5. Christ is never rightly taken up, so long as any thing desirable is supposed to be gotten elsewhere, he must be all desires: and therefore, where any thing hath the least share of the affections beside him, he hath not his own place. 6. Empty and undesirable are all beloveds in the world beside Christ, and broken cisterns will they all prove; and it is no marvel; for, all desires are in him, and therefore, not one desirable thing is or can be found in them. 7. They have a good bargain who have Christ. It's the short cut (to say so) and compendious way to happiness, and to the inheriting of all things, to unite with Christ by faith, and to possess him; for, all desires are in him; and miserable will the persons be who shall miss Christ, altho' they were gainers of the whole world.

Having somewhat answered the daughters of Jerusalem their question, by insisting in this excellent description of Christ, now by way of application and holy boasting, in the close of the verse, she reasons thus: ye asked what my Beloved was more than other beloveds? And for your satisfaction, I have described him as I can, many several ways, though all fall very short of full expressing of his matchless worth: now (saith she) this excellent person is 'my Beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem;' bring all other beloveds, and compare them with him, and see if he be not the chiefest and standard-bearer amongst them all; and in this confident boasting of the excellency of her Beloved, she closes: which sweet discourse wants not its fruit on them, as we will see in the chapter following.

Consider the words four ways, 1. In the matter, they hold forth two sweet relations betwixt Christ and the believer, and this sweetens all, not only that this Beloved is an excellent person, but that he was hers, she with, he 'is my Beloved,' and also 'my friend;' he is her friend (as she is his friend, verse 1,) that is, one that is friendly to her, and will do for her, beyond what a brother, or mother, or the nearest of all relations will or can do; he is one that is born for the day of her adversity, and one whom she trusts as her own soul, he is so dear to her, and she to him; for, this tie of friendship is mutual betwixt them. In a word (saith she) he is much in himself, and much to me, unspeakably excellent in himself, and very dear and precious to me, my husband, and my friend in sum, my friendly husband, and my loving friend.

Observe. 1. There are many sweet relations that Christ stands in to the believer, as husband, friend, brother, &c., even as there are many relations that she stands in to him, as spouse, sister, dove, &c. 2. Christ fills all the relations that he stands in to his people, and that exceedingly well; he is a singularly loving, faithful, kind and tender husband; and a singularly kind, faithful and unchangeable friend, the best friend that ever a believer had; for, the expression, 'this is;' &c. saith, that what Christ is, he is indeed, and singularly so, as having no equal, he is a matchless husband and friend: this is the scope. 3. Christ and the believer are upon one side, they are friends, there is a league of friendship betwixt them, and they have common friends, and oommon adversaries. 4. Those who are Christ's friends, (as verse 1. 'eat, O friends') Christ may be claimed by them as their friend, and what that can infer, they may expect from him; for, he hath no bare title, neither sustains he any empty relation. 5. Believers should lean much to Christ, trust him, and expect good from him, as their friend. 6. It is a notable and singular consolation for folks to have Christ their friend, it is comfortable in life, death, and judgment, in prosperity and adversity, it implies these things in which he is forthcoming to his friends, 1. Constant kindness and faithfulness at all times, 'he loves at all times,' Prov. 17:17, and, chap. 18 last: he never fails, nor can he at any time be charged with that which Absalom casts up to Hushai, 2 Sam. 16:17, 'Is this thy kindness to thy friend?' 2. Sympathy, and condescending to supply their wants, he cleaves 'closer than a brother,' Prov. 18:24; it is such a love, as one hath who aimeth at his friend's good, as well as his own. 3. Familiarity in mutual communion, as useth to be betwixt friends, and freedom in conversing, as, Exod. 3:11, 'The Lord spoke with Moses as a man doth with his friend.' 4. It takes in a mutual confidence that one may have in another, as in his very own self, and more than in any other; all which are eminently in Christ, as 'ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so doth the sweetness of a man's friend,' and eminently of this friend, 'by hearty counsel,' Prov. 27:9. No other friends are comparable to this friend: happy, happy for evermore are they, whose friend Christ Jesus is. 7. Where Christ is a friend, there is he also the soul's Beloved, or, believers' choosing of Christ for their Beloved, and his being kindly to them as a friend, go together; these two relations, 'my Beloved;' and 'my friend' are never separate. Now to be the soul's Beloved, implies these things, 1. That comparatively, Christ is eminently and only loved by his people, and nothing is admitted to share in their affection with him,' Phil. 3:8. 2. That there is in the soul an high esteem of him, which begets this love. 3. That there is such an ardent affection to him, as makes them long for union with him, as love naturally desires union with that which it loves, it desires to be with Christ here, and hereafter, as that which is far the best of all, Phil. 1:23. 4. It supposes a delight and satisfaction, that their souls take in Christ, and expect from union with him; their happiness lies in it, and they are. disquieted, and someway holily discontented and weighted, when they miss it, and under desertion and absence, easily fear, lest their heart beguile and delude them in that concerning matter, as the scope of this place, and her present exercise shew. 5. It supposes a kindliness in their love, and well groundedness, such as a wife hath to her husband, and not such as is betwixt the adulteress and the adulterer, which is all the love that the men of the world have to their idols, but the love that the Bride hath to Christ, is a native and avowed love, of which she hath no reason to be ashamed (as men will one day be of all their idols) but to boast and glory in him; and Christ is to the believer, not what idols are to the men of the world, but what a most loving husband is to his wife, being the object of her heart-contenting and satisfying love; wherever these properties of true love to Christ are, there may the soul lay claim to him as its friend, and be confident to find him its true and kindly friend; for, where he is the soul's Beloved, he is the soul's friend. 8. This is implied, that whatever other beloveds men set their love upon besides Christ, they will prove unsound, and unfaithful friends in the time of need; or, confidence in any thing but Christ will fail a man at last; for, he is their friend, and no other beloved deserves that name. All other things will be like 'a broken tooth, or a foot out of joint,' Prov. 25:19, or like pools in the wilderness, that run dry in the heart, and make the wayfaring men ashamed, such as Job's friends did prove to him, Job 6:15, miserable comforters will they be to men, in the day of their greatest need; but then especially will Christ Jesus be found to be a friend indeed; for, there is an excellency in Christ in every relation which he stands under to his people, and an infinite disproportion betwixt him and all creatures, in respect of this.

A second way that we may consider the words is, as they relate to the daughters of Jerusalem their question, verse 9. 'Ye ask what he is more than other beloveds?' Now (saith she) this is he, who is singular and matchless in all his properties; and so, it looks not only to her choice of him, to be her Beloved and her friend, but saith also, that he is singularly and matchlessly such, even a non-such Beloved and friend, and one who will be found, after trial, only worthy to be chosen and closed with as such. Observe. 1. Believers in their answers to others, should, as particularly as may be, bring home what they say to some edifying use (for, this best clears any question proposed) and should not insist on generals, much less evanish in empty speculations, but should level at edification, and frame what they say, so, as it may best reach that end, and therefore she applies her answer to their question. 2. When Christ in his excellency and worth is a little insisted and dwelt on, he will be found to be incomparable; and the more souls search into him, the more confidently may they assert his incomparable excellency; this she here doth, and saith, as it were, is he not, and see ye him not now to be the chiefest among ten thousand, and more excellent than all others? As having made her assertion demonstrative, and undeniable. 3. Christ's worth can bide the trial, and there are, and may be gotten, good grounds to prove that he is well worthy of all the respect, that can be put upon him; and in reason, his worth and excellency may be made convincing unto others, and it may be demonstrated to consciences, that Christ is of more worth than all the world; and her resuming of it thus, supposeth it now to he so clear, that they could say nothing against it, as appears more fully from the words following. 4. No other beloved, nor friend that men choose beside Christ, can abide the trial; the more they are inquired into, and searched out, they will be found to be of the less worth: therefore she appeals (as it were) to all men to bring their beloveds before Christ, if they durst compare with him, as being confident none durst enter the lists, purposely and professedly to compete with him.

3. We may consider these words, as her application made to the daughters of Jerusalem, holding forth her scope, to edify them by this description of Christ, and pressingly (for their good) to bear it in upon them, that they might be made to fall in love with this Christ, that had so high a room in her heart; for, so the very strain of the words seem to run. Hence, Observe. 1. Those who love Christ themselves, will be desirous to have others knowing and loving him also: and this may be a mark of love to Christ, an earnest desire to have him esteemed of, and loved by others. 2. Those who love Christ and others truly, will endeavour nothing more, than to have Christ made known to them, and to have them divorced from their idols, and engaged to him; thus love to them, as well as to him, manifests itself. 3. It is a piece of the duty of mutual communion, to which the Lord's people are obliged, to instruct others in the knowledge of the excellencies of Christ, that they may be brought in love with him; and where that end is proposed, according to mens' several places and stations, no opportunity should be missed, nor pains spared, which may attain it. 4. That this duty of commending Christ to ethers, so as it may be profitable, should be exceeding warily and circumspectly gone about, as all the Bride's strain clears; for, she goes about it, 1. Tenderly, not upbraiding their ignorance. 2. Lovingly, speaking still to them as friends. 3. Wisely and seasonably, taking the fit opportunity of their question. 4. Fully, solidly, and judiciously, bearing forth the main things of Christ to them. 5. Affectionately and gravely, as being affected with the thing, and in love with Christ herself. 6. Exemplarily and convincingly, as going before them in the practice of that herself, which she endeavours to press upon them; that is, by loving and seeking Christ above all herself, she studies to commend that to others the more effectually. 5. Observe. That the right uptaking of Christ in his excellency, and the pressing of him upon the heart, is the most solid way of wearing all other beloveds out of request with the soul: if he once get room, the esteem of other things will quickly blow up; and there is no way to have the heart weaned from them, but to have Christ great in the affections of his people; therefore, when they ask, what he is more than other beloveds? She answers, not by crying them down, or by discovering their worthlessness, but by the describing of his worth, and thereby giving them a solid proof of his excellency to be a ground of their faith, which doth necessarily infer the other; for, 'Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:5.

4. We may consider this close, as it holds forth the holy exulting, and boasting of her soul in Christ, who is so far in excellency beyond all others: this is clear from her claiming of interest in him, and her repeating of the phrase, 'this,' this, singular 'this, is my Beloved;' and again, 'this is my friend,' especially compared with the scope, whereby now she holds him out, not only as a matchless beloved and friend, but to be hers, and she thinks no shame of him; her heart with holy gladness and joy doth exult in this excellent choice of hers above all others: as if she said, ask ye what he is? This, now so described, is he that is mine; he is not like the worthless, empty, and stinking beloveds, which others have, I avow him, and count myself happy, and well come to in him; the contentment I have in him is incomparably beyond the counterfeit contentment, that all other beloveds can give. This the manner of expression, and the frame of her heart in the uttering of it, and the scope (which is to shew her confidence in this his commendation, as most worthy to be commended) do imply. Observe. 1. That there is matter of boasting and holy bragging in Christ Jesus, whether we consider the excellency that is in himself, or the confidence that his people may have in him, as one who will make all that is in him forthcoming to the utmost, for the good of his own. 2. That there is nothing besides him, that one can confidently boast of; for, this her boasting is so appropriate to him, as it is implied, to be utterly unsuitable that men should boast of any other thing. 'Let him that glorieth, glory in the Lord,' that is, in him, and in no other thing beside. 3. That believers who have interest in him, and have taken him to be their Beloved and their friend, may make their boast in him, Psalm 34:2; may glory in him, Isa. 45:25; and may bless themselves, as happy eternally in him, Isa. 65:16. This holy boasting implieth, 1. An high estimation of him. 2. Confidence in him, without fear. 3. Satisfaction with him, and having full contentment in him. 4. An eminent joy resulting from these, which cannot be shaken, all the former being in an eminent degree. 4. Observe. That it is incumbent on the believer who hath chosen Christ, sometimes to boast in him, and in a lovely and holy way to vaunt and boast (if we may so speak) of him above all, so are we commanded, to 'glory in his holy name,' Psal 105:3, and this is one of the ways we are to commend him, and Christ will take it as a piece of notable respect put upon him, when it is seriously done. 5. When a believer is in a right frame, and clear anent his interest, he will boast himself in Christ, as having 'the lines fallen to him in pleasant places,' Psalm 16:6, whatever else be his lot in the world: Christ is a bargain, that one day will be found worth the boasting of.



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