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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter Four Verse 3

by James Durham

Verse 3. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.

In this third verse we have the fourth and fifth particulars that are commended in the Bride. The fourth thing commended is her 'lips;' the commendation given them is, that they are like 'a thread of scarlet,' that is neat and lovely, and of an excellent colour, as scarlet, which (being of the richest dye) was made use of under the law to represent the blood of Christ, as Heb. 9:19. Next, this is amplified, as we conceive, in the following expression ('and thy speech is comely') which is added for the explication of the former, and therefore is joined thereto with a copulative ('and') which is added to none of the other parts here commended; and it may be here added, to shew, 1. A way of opening the other expression; for speech is expressed by lips, because they are the organs (to say so) whereby it is formed and uttered. And, 2. To shew, that under lips, come in both our words to God in prayer and praise, and also our words to others, whatever is spoken or comes out of the lips, as often the phrase is used for both. Also it shews, that in a special way he takes notice of believers' speech (when it's savoury) as a main part of their spiritual beauty, which makes them lovely.

The commendation of her lips and speech is twofold. 1. More general; it is like 'a thread of scarlet.' 2. That is expounded by another expression more clear and particular, namely this, 'thy speech is comely:' the meaning of both which may be comprehended under these four, 1. That her speech is profitable for its matter, as a scarlet thread is precious and useful: the subject of a believer's discourse is not common, but 'good to the use of edifying,' Eph. 4:29. 2. It is pleasant and delightsome for its manner, like a sweet, comely, and pleasant voice, opposite to some kind of voices that are harsh and unpleasant; it is by prudence and love sweetened, and made savoury, and therefore is said in scripture to be 'seasoned with salt,' Col. 4:6, and to 'minister grace to the hearers,' and it is called a giving of thanks, Eph. 5:3. It is articulate and distinct, therefore called 'speech' and not a sound; having honest ingenuity in it, speaking as they 'think in their heart,' Psalm 15:2, and opposite to lying, dissembling, &c. whereby one speaks to vail or hide his mind from another. 4. Hereby is also signified, that they hazard not even the best of their prayers on their own bottom and worth, but their work is to have them all dyed in the blood of the Lamb, and to put them up in his name, Heb. 13:15. They are all 'offered up by him.'

Now these are special qualifications, commendations, and characters of a believer; shewing, 1. That a believer, as a believer, is not dumb, but hath renewed lips, whereby he can speak to God in praise for his honour, in prayers for his own good, and also to others for their edification: a believer that can speak nothing to a good purpose, or if he can, doth it not, is not like Christ's Bride; much less those whose discourses tend quite another way. 2. That words are in a special way taken notice of by Christ, and are special evidences of the frame of the heart, according to which we may expect commendation or reproof from Christ, for by 'our words we shall be justified,' or 'condemned,' Matt. 12:37. 3. That there is nothing more commendable in itself, beautiful in a believer, or acceptable to Christ, than the well ordering of the words; he who can 'rule the tongue,' is a 'perfect man,' James 3:2. 4. That believers' prayers are all dyed in Christ's blood, and put up in his name: and we conceive prayer, or the believer's speech to God, is especially understood; partly, because prayer gets this same commendation to be sweet and comely, chap. 2:14, and partly because mutual communication in words among believers, is expressed afterwards more clearly, verse 11, though it is not to be excluded here.

The fifth part of her commendation (or the fifth character or property of the Bride) is in these words, 'thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.' The temples are that part of the face, that are betwixt the ears and the eyes; and sometimes the signification is so large, as they take in the cheeks; they are a special part wherein the beauty of the face consists, and are the proper seat of shamefacedness and modesty, wherein blushing appears. The commendation is twofold, 1. They are like 'a piece of a pomegranate:' they who write of it say, it is a fruit, which when broken (as here the mentioning of a piece thereof signifies) is pleasant with red and white spots, not unlike blushing in a pleasant face. The second commendation is, that these temples are 'within her locks,' of the colour of a pomegranate, but not discernible fully (as the eyes also were, verse 1.) yet something observable; as sometimes modesty will make blushing, and again will seek to cover it, when hardly will it be gotten done. Here we take tenderness, shamefacedness, modesty in spiritual things, and blushing before God to be understood; Christ's Bride hath a tenderness that is soon affected with wrongs done to him, she easily resents them; and this is opposite to impudence, and a whore's forehead, which cannot be ashamed, than which nothing is more displeasing to Christ, and unbecoming to his Bride; here the temples are not hard, (as the brow that is of brass) but like a piece of a pomegranate, opposite to it; here it is not stretched out impudently, but covered within the locks, and not shameless that cannot blush, but coloured (to say so) with shamefacedness and blushing, which though they seek to hide, yet it appears in them. And this application being safe in itself, and agreeable to the scope; (which shews what Christ is delighted with in her) and this being a main piece of her beauty, and also suitable to the commendation, there is no hazard to fix on it; for, without this she would not be so lovely.

Now we may easily conceive, that this tenderness, modesty, or blushing, is not any natural endowment, which appears in the carriage of man to man; but it is a saving grace, which especially is to be found in believers' carriage before Christ as being their Lord and husband: and it evidenceth itself in believers in these, or the like steps. 1. In their being soon challenged, for any thing that looks like sin. 2. In their being affected easily with challenges, and with the infirmities that are in them. 3. In their thinking shame of them, as of things that are disgraceful. 4. In their not being tenacious of them, or of their own will, nor disputing with Christ in any thing, but passing easily from their compearance, as it were, and thinking shame to be taken in any sin, or to be found in mistakes with him. 5. In being sparing to speak of any thing that tends to commend themselves, or in seeking their own glory. These are commendable things in a believer, and make him look like the piece of a pomegranate, spotted with red and white: and it shews the result of a believer's looking on their own way, when they take it up, and see that wrong, and this right; and even that which is right, wrong in so many things, and so may ways; whereupon as there is ever some sincerity, so there is ever some shame, and holy blushing; and this is constant, and (as it were) native to them, still to blush when they look upon themselves.

2. This commendation, that her temples are 'within her locks,' imports, that Christ's Bride blushes when none sees, and for that which no other sees: and also that she seeks not to publish her exercises, but modestly covers them; yet the evidences of all these in a tender walk, appear and are comely. Observe. 1. Shamefacedness or sobriety becomes a believer, or Christ's Bride exceeding well, 2. Tim. 2:9. 2. Inward heart-blushing, when we look upon ourselves before God, is the best trial of true tenderness. 3. A believer will have many shameful representations of himself, and will think much shame of what he sees, which the world will never be acquainted with. 4. This grace of self-loathing and holy blushing, is much taken notice of by Christ, and most especially recorded by him, however it be much hid from others.



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