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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter One Verse 3

by James Durham

Verse 3. Because of the savour of thy good ointments, thy name is as ointment poured forth; therefore do the virgins love thee.

The second reason (which is also a confirmation and enlargement of the former) is verse 3, and it runs upon these supposed and implied grounds. 1. That there are many precious excellencies in Christ. So that, 2. The speaking of his name, is as if a man would open a sweet savouring box of ointment, as that woman did, John 12.

3. There is no title, or office, or qualification in Christ, but all are savoury; his very garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, &c. Psalm 45:8. 3. It suppones that this worth and loveliness of Christ, ravishes all that ever knew him (here called virgins) with love to Him and therefore (which is the strength of the reason) it is no marvel, would she say, I love him so fervently, and desire so earnestly the manifestations of his love, which I have found so sweet.

So the verse may be taken up in these four things, 1. Christ's furniture; he hath many savoury ointments, and good. 2. The further explication, and amplification of this his commendation, expressing both what she meant by ointments, and also the abundance and freshness of these ointments which were in Christ, in these words, 'thy name is as ointment poured forth.' 3. The effect that followed on these, or the attractive virtue of them, which is such, that the most chaste, who kept their affections from other objects, are yet without prejudice to their chaste nature, taken up and ravished with that loveliness of Christ: 'Therefore' (saith she) 'do the virgins love thee.' 4. There is the scope, which is partly to shew the reality of Christ's worth, which not only she, but all believers were in love with; partly to show, that it was no strange thing, to see her so taken up with him, it would be rather strange if it were otherwise; seeing it is not possible for any to see and taste what Christ is, and not be ravished with his love.

Ointments are both of an adorning and refreshing nature, especially to the sense of smelling, Psalm 104:15. 'Ointment makes men's faces to shine,' and the house where it is, to savour, when it is precious and good, John 12:3. Men in vanity use sweet powders, and such things as these, which can but little commend them; but Christ's ointments are his graces, Psalm 45:2, wherewith he is anointed, for opening the blind eyes, for preaching glad tidings to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, to give the oil of joy for mourning, &c. as it is, Isa. 61:1,2,3. Which qualifications, are both more delightsome and savoury, in themselves, and to the soul that is sensible of its need of them, than any ointments the high priest of old used, which were but typical of the graces and qualifications wherewith Christ is furnished: hence is in the gospel, 2 Cor. 2:14,15, (whereby these graces are manifested) called 'a sweet savour.'

Again, these ointments are said to be good: so are they in their nature, and in their effects on, sinners, as is clear from Isa. 61:1,2, &c. And 2. They are said to savour; the scent and smell of them is sweet and refreshful to the spiritual senses. And 3. They are called his ('thy good ointment') they are his, not only as he is God, having all-sufficiency essentially in him, but as Mediator, having purchased eternal redemption, and having 'the Spirit without measure' communicated to him, John 3:34, and in that respect, 'anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows,' Psalm 45:7, that out of his fulness we might all receive, grace for grace, John 1:14. Our graces being of that same nature, that his are of. It's comfortable, that Christ hath many good ointments; that they are his own, and that he hath the right of disposing of them, and that as Mediator they are given unto him for that very purpose.

Observe. 1. Grace is a cordial and savoury thing, no ointment is like it. 2. Christ abounds in grace, he is 'full of grace and truth,' John 1:14. Hence our wants are said to be made up, 'according to his riches in glory by Jesus Christ,' Phil. 4:19. 3. They are good and excellent graces and qualifications, wherewith the Mediator is furnished; such as do exactly answer all the necessities and wants of empty and needy sinners.

2. The commendation is explicated, or illustrated by a similitude: the thing she explains, and which she understood by ointments, is his name: the similitude whereby it is illustrated, is, 'ointment poured forth,' Christ's name is Himself or the knowledge of Himself, or every thing whereby Himself is made known, his attributes, word, works, especially those of redemption, his ordinances, covenant, promises, &c. which are all his name (for so the preaching of the gospel is called the bearing of his name, Acts 9:15, and making known, or declaring his name, Psalm 22:22. Heb. 2:12, &c.) This is the thing illustrated. Now this name is compared, not to ointment simply, as sealed up in a box, but to ointment as poured forth and diffused. Whereby, 1. The abundance of these graces is holden forth; there is no scarcity of them in him. 2. His liberality in communicating of them, he pours them out, as one opening a box of ointment, should so diffuse and distribute it. 3. By this is set out the lively savouriness of his graces; they savour not only as ointment closed up, but as ointment diffused. In a word, there is nothing in Christ (for whatever is in him, is comprehended under his name) but the unfolding of it will be more refreshful, and abundant in spiritual delights, than if men would break and open many boxes of costly ointments, and pour them all out on others.

Observe. 1. Believers are not soon satisfied in taking up, or expressing of Christ's worth. 2. Christ and all that is in him, is as full of spiritual life and refreshing, as a box that is full of the most precious ointment: Christ is well stored with grace, it is 'poured into his lips,' Psalm 45:2. 3. This savour of Christ's graces is not felt by every one, the box of his ointments is not open to all, but only to some, and that is to them that believe; for to them he is precious, and every thing that is in him, is most cordial and savoury to the believer. 4. The more Christ and his worth be enquired into, it will savour the better, and be the more refreshful (for it is his name which is this ointment) Christ in his excellent worth, through men's strangeness to him, is unknown in the world; they do not enquire into this savoury name, but if he were once known, they would find that in him, that would make them give over their other unprofitable pursuits, and pant after him. The effect of these his ointments (which is a proof of the reality of this truth, and the third thing in the verse) is in these words, 'therefore do the virgins love thee.' By virgins here, are not understood bare professors, but sincere believers, who are not counterfeit in their affection, nor so common in their love, as to bestow it on any creature whorishly, but who reserve it for Christ only: so the church is called, 2 Cor. 11:2, 'a chaste virgin;' and so these who were kept unspotted, and sealed for the Lord, Rev. 14:4, 5, are called virgins. They are here called virgins in the plural number, because this denomination belongs to all believers, distributively, and in particular. They are said to love Christ, that is, whatever others do, who have no spiritual senses, and whose example is not to be regarded; yet these (saith she) desire thee only, and delight in thee only: and this differenceth true virgins from others.

If it be asked, whether that be single love, which loves Christ for his ointments; we answer Christ's ointments may be two ways considered, 1. As they make himself lovely and desirable; so we may, and should love him, because he is a most lovely object, as being so well qualified and furnished. 2. As by these, many benefits are communicated to us; thus we ought to love him for his goodness to us, although not principally, because no effect of that love is fully adequate, and comparable to that love in him, which is the fountain from which these benefits flow; yet, this love is both gratitude and duty, taught by nature, and no mercenary thing, when it is superadded to the former. Hence observe,

l. All have not a true esteem of Christ, though he be most excellently lovely: for, it is the virgins only that love him. 2. There be some that have an high esteem of him, and are much taken with the savoury ointments, and excellent qualifications wherewith he is furnished. 3. None can love him and other things excessively also they who truly love Him, their love is reserved for Him, therefore they are called virgins: it is but common love, and scarce worth the naming, that doth not single out its object from all other things. 4. They who truly love Him, are the choice and wale of all the world beside; their example is to be followed and weight laid on their practice (in the essentials of spiritual communion, more than on the example of kings, scholars, or wise men: so doth she reason here from the virgins, and passeth what others do. 5. True chaste love to Christ, is the character of a virgin-believer, and agrees to them all, and to none other. 6. The love that every believer hath to Christ, is a proof of his worth; and will be either a motive to make us love Him, or an aggravation of our neglect.




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