|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by James Durham
Verse 1. How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter! The joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.
The first verse contains two pieces of the Bride's commendation: the first part that is commended is the feet, 'How beautiful are thy feet!' &c. In this consider the title she gets. 2. The part commended. 3. The commendation itself. 4. The manner of expressing of it. First, The title is, 'O prince's daughter!' This was not given her before, it is now prefixed to this commendation in general, to usher in all that follows, and to make it the more gaining on her affection: the word in the first language is, Nadib, which signifies a bounteous prince, or, one of a princely disposition, Isa. 32:5. It is given to the visible church, Psalm 45:13, 'The King's daughter is all glorious within.' For more full taking up of the meaning, consider, that it doth here include these three, 1. A nobleness and greatness in respect of birth, that the Bride is honourably descended; from which we may learn, That believers (whatever they be in respect of the flesh) are of a royal descent and kindred, 'a royal priesthood,' 1 Pet. 2:9, 'Sons and daughters to the Lord God Almighty,' 2 Cor. 6:18. 2. It respects her qualifications, as being princely in her carriage, suitable to such a birth, Eccles. 10:17. Hence observe, the believer should be of a princely disposition and carriage, and when he is right, he will be so; for, he is endued with princely qualifications, with noble and excellent principles beyond the most generous, noble, gallant, and stately dispositions of men in the world: a believer when right, or in good case, is a princely person indeed. 3. It respects her provision and expectation; that she is provided for, waited upon, and to be dealt with, and even caressed not as children of mean persons, but of princes, to whom it is her 'Father's good pleasure to give a kingdom,' and such a one as is 'undefiled, and fadeth not away,' Luke 12:32; 1 Pet. 1:4. Hence observe, That the believer is royally dealt with by Jesus Christ, and hath a royal princely allowance bestowed on him; the charter of adoption takes in very much, even to 'inherit with him all things:' no less than this may be expected, and is the claim of a daughter to the King of kings, Rev. 21:7.
2. The part commended is, 'the feet,' by which a believer's walk and conversation, as grace shines in it, is understood, as we may see frequently, Psalm 119:verses 59,101,105. So likewise shedding of blood, or other defiling sins, such as leave foul prints upon a man's conversation behind them are called the 'iniquities of the heels,' Psalm 49:5, by which the nakedness and offensiveness of one's conversation is set forth: and on the contrary, the Bride's feet thus commended, sets out her good conversation.
3. Her feet are commended from this, that they are not bare, but, 'beautiful with shoes.' To be bare-footed, imports three things in scripture, 1. A shameful condition, Isa. 20:4. 2. A present sad affliction, the sense whereof makes men careless of what is adorning; so David, 2 Sam. 15:30, under heavy affliction, walks bare-footed.. 3. An unfitness for travel; therefore, when the people were to be in readiness for their journey, Exod. 12:11, their feet were to be shod: so then, to have on shoes, doth on the contrary import three things, 1. The honourable estate and dignity to which believers are advanced; and more especially, it holds out a singular beautifulness in their walk, whereby their shame is covered. 2. A thriving in their spiritual condition. 3. A readiness and promptness of obedience, to what they are called unto all which are beautiful in themselves, and adorning to the believer. We take it, in a word, to hold out a conversation, such 'as becomes the gospel,' Philip. 1:27, which is, to have 'the feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,' Eph. 6:15, because, that as by shoes, men are enabled to walk without hurt in rough ground, and are in the company of others not ashamed of their nakedness; so, a gospel conversation quiets the mind, keeping it in peace against difficulties, and doth exceedingly strengthen the confidence of believers in their conversing with others, and becomes exceeding lovely, that they care not (as it were) who see them; as, Ezek 16:10. 'I shod thee,' &c. Whereas a disorderly conversation is shameful, even like one that is bare-footed.
4. The manner of the expression is, to aggrege the loveliness of a well ordered walk. 'How beautiful are thy feet with shoes!' It cannot be told how beautiful a tender and well ordered conversation is; it is exceeding lovely, and acceptable to me (saith he) to see thy holy walk.
Observe. 1. Our Lord Jesus takes notice of every step of a believer's carriage, and can tell whether their feet be shod or bare, whether their conversation be such as adorneth or shameth the gospel. 2. The believer hath, or at least ought to have, and, if he be like himself, will have a well ordered walk, and will be in his carriage stately and princely. 3. A conversation, that is well ordered, is a beautiful and pleasant thing: grace, exercised in a Christian's practice, is more commendable to Christ, than either greatness, riches, wisdom, or what the world esteems most of; none of these hath such a commendation from Christ, as the believer, who, it may be, is not much in the world's esteem: practical holiness is a main part of spiritual beauty, and is valuable above speculative knowledge and many gifts. 4. Believers should be walking creatures, therefore hath the new nature feet; that is, they should be much in the practice of holy duties, according to the commands he hath given in his word: and in their way they should be making progress towards perfection; for, that is their mark, Phil. 3:13. Sitting still, or negligence, much more going backward, is unlike a believer. 5. The conversation of all others, though never so fairded with much civility, and great profession, and many parts, is yet naked and abominable before God, and subject to bruisings, stumblings, and such inconveniences as feet that are bare are liable to. 6. A well ordered walk is sure and safe: 'He that walks uprightly walks surely,' Prov. 10:9. And, saith the Psalmist, 'Great peace have they who love thy law, and nothing shall offend them,' Psalm 119:165. Their feet are shod against an evil time, and there is nothing safer when offences abound than that.
The second part of the commendation is to the same scope, 'The joints of thy thighs,' &c. It is the coupling and turnings of them, as the word hears; they are also useful in motion, and help the feet to stir, the same thing is intended as in chap. 5:15, by his thighs or legs; only it seems to look to the principles of their walk, as the feet do respect their way more immediately: these are compared to jewels, which are precious and comely, serving much for adorning; and it is not to ordinary jewels, to which they are compared, but such as are the 'work of the hands of a cunning skilful artificer, or workman,' that is, such as are set orderly and dexterously, by skill and art; the work, not of a novice, but of one that is expert; by which, not only the matter of their practice is holden forth to be solid, hut also, in respect of the principles from which their way and duties have their spring and rise and the manner of their performing them, they are rightly gone about, with an holy kind of art and dexterity: which saith, 1. That there are many things necessarily concurring in a well ordered conversation; there must be skill to do rightly, what is in itself right, to make it commendable: it is needful that holy duties, and what is on the matter called for, be done in the right manner, and according to art, and not put by thus, and so. 2. Believers are singularly expert, in doing of the same duties of religion which other men do, they do them in another manner. 3. The several pieces of a holy walk, are in a manner but split, when not rightly ordered, and every one put in its own place, like jewels undexterously set by one that is unskilful. 4. There is an holy art required to those that would walk commendably, and men naturally are unskilful in such practices, until they be taught them. 5. Being right in the manner, is no less necessary to make a man's way commendable, than to be right in the matter, as much of the commendation lies in this, as in the other; when these two go together in a believer's conversation, it is excellent and beautiful; there is no jewel, most finely set, comparable to a well ordered walk. 6. Believers that use to walk in the way of godliness, may attain to this spiritual dexterity and skilfulness in a great measure: and there is no other way of attaining it, but by accustoming ourselves to it; when her feet are once shod, this commendation follows, that 'the joints of her thighs are like jewels.'
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