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by James Durham
Verse 2. Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep, that are even shorn, which came up from the washing: whereof everyone bear twins, and none is barren among them.
The third particular commended, is in verse 2, and it is her 'teeth,' which have a fourfold commendation given them. The teeth properly taken, are useful for furthering the nourishment of the body, they being the instruments that fit meat for digestion; and what comeliness is in them, is not every way obvious; they are not seen or discerned in their proportionableness or disproportionableness, but by the motion of the lips, otherwise they are hid by them. 2. Again in scripture they are used to evidence and signify these three things, 1. They are used to signify the nature and disposition of a person, as good or evil; hence evil men are said to have 'lions' teeth,' and that their 'teeth are as spears,' Psalm 57:4. And that beast, Dan. 7:5,7, is said to have 'three ribs in his teeth,' pointing out its cruel disposition. 2. They evidence good or ill food, that the person feeds on. 3. A healthful or unhealthful complexion, which depends much on the former: hence Judah's good portion and healthfulness is set out by this, Gen. 49:12, 'His teeth shall be white with milk.' According to the first, by teeth in the new man may be understood two things; 1. Faith; believing being often compared to eating, because it furthers the soul's nourishment, and is the means by which the soul lives on its spiritual food. This saith, 1. That the inner man must have food, as the natural body hath, for its sustaining. 2. That the believer actually eats and makes use of that food, he hath teeth for that end, and should not only look on Christ, but feed on him. Secondly; Meditation also may be here understood; that serving much to the feeding and filling of the soul, as Psalm 63:6,7, 'My soul shall be filled as with marrow and fatness.' How? 'While I meditate on thee on my bed, and think of thee in the night watches;' meditation is as it were the soul's ruminating and chewing its cud, feeding upon, and digesting what is understood and eaten, as the clean beast did: which maybe one reason why her teeth are in the first part of their commendation, compared to 'a flock of sbeep,' which were among the number of clean beasts by reason of this property: meditation is exceedingly useful for a believer's life, and they who are strangers to it, are not like Christ's sheep.
Again, as the teeth evidence first the nature and inward disposition, so we conceive they are also made use of here (as the commendation also clears) to shew, 1. The zealous nature which is, and ought to be in believers, they have 'teeth' and ought not always to be soft, wherein the Lord's honour is concerned: zeal though it bite not, and devour not, yet it is not senseless, but easily touched with the feeling of that which reflects upon the glory of God. 2. The similitude here is to shew what a meek and quiet spirit believers have, they have not such teeth as lions or tigers, but such as sheep have; nor tusks like dogs and ravenous beasts, but 'even shorn,' shewing a moderation, and equitableness in their way, being 'first pure, then peaceable, gentle,' &c. James 3:17. This will agree well to teeth, as they appear by opening the lips, for, the new nature within is expressed, and doth appear in words, which afterward are spoken of under the similitude of lips.
Now this christian moderation which keeps the right midst, is a notable piece of spiritual beauty (as is clear from the second piece of the commendation) for it is 'as a flock of sheep even shorn,' and not unequally, and unhandsomely clipped; so true zeal will not upon bye-respect or interest be high or low, up or down, but keeps a just equality in its way: and this speaks out a well constituted frame, that is, neither too soft, nor too sharp, in biting and devouring one another (as is said, Gal. 5:15.) which carnal zeal sets the teeth a-work to do.
2. This similitude doth evidence and signify a good subject they feed on, to wit, Christ and his promises; and a good subject they meditate on, the same Christ, and what is most precious in him: hence in the third part of the commendation, they are likened to sheep 'coming up from the washing,' white and clean: neither mixture of human inventions, nor of carnal passions or worldly delights, gets place and entertainment with them; their zeal is pure, their ends are single, their affections are chaste and clean, being 'purged from all filthiness of flesh and spirit,' and they appear so.
3. Not only their healthfulness is hereby evidenced, but further also their fruitfulness; whereupon their inward meekness and zeal moderated by pure and peaceable wisdom, have great influence, as is clear by the fourth part of their commendation, 'every one' of these sheep 'bear twins, and none is barren among them:' the scope whereof, is to shew their abundant fruitfulness, thus their sweet nature is a pleasant possession, like a flock of sheep that enriches their owner, they are so fruitful and profitable. Observe. 1. Feeding on Christ is ever fruitful to the soul that makes him its food; whereas other meats profit not them, that are occupied therein. Heb. 13:9. 2: Zeal moderated with meekness, hath also a deal of fruit waiting on it, James 3:17, but bitter zeal (as it is there in the original) or strife, hath confusion, and every evil work following on it, Ibid. verses 14,15,16. It is much to be zealous alway in a good thing, and no little piece of spiritual commendation, to keep the right midst with our zeal.
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