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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter Four Verse 11

by James Durham

Verse 11. Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honey-comb honey and milk are under thy tongue, and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.

Having thus expressed his affection to his Bride, he breaks forth in a positive commendation of her (which may be looked upon as the ground of the comparative commendation in the former verse) and he describes and commends her at once, these two ways, 1. Touching, as it were, at some particulars (which are indeed generals) wherein her loveliness appears in actual fruits, verse 11. 2. In seven comparisons he holds forth her fruitfulness from the 12 to the 16 verse, wherein he not only commends her by the fruits which she brings forth, but from her fitness or aptitude to bring forth these fruits, so that she cannot but be fruitful; as if one commending an orchard from the fruit, apples, pomegranates, &c. or whatever other fruits are in orchards, should then fall upon the commendation of the orchard itself, in its situation, fences, waters, or kinds of the plants, &c. so is it here. And this last commendation, is to be looked upon as the cause of the former.

In this 11th verse there are three particulars commended: under which we conceive much of the series of a believer's walk is understood. The 1. is her 'lips:' which are commended from this, that they 'drop as the honey-comb.' By lips, as verse 3, and frequently in the Song (and so in the Proverbs, a man of lips is taken for a man of talk) is understood her speech, words or discourse, especially to others. These her words (or her speech) are compared for the matter, to 'honey' or 'the honey-comb,' that is sweet, nourishing, healthful and pleasant as Prov. 16:24, 'Pleasant words are as the honey-comb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones:' and by 'honey' in scripture, is often understood that which is excellent, and useful for the life of man: and therefore it was a property of Canaan, that it flowed with milk and honey, which are put together in the following piece of her commendation. 2. Her speech or words, are commended from the manner, or qualification of them, 'they drop as the honey-comb,' &c. Dropping words signify, 1. Seasonable words, which are like dew, dropping for the edification of others, as dew by its dropping makes the fields fruitful. 2. Prudence and moderation in discourse, and so dropping is opposed to floods, that with violence overflow. 3. This phrase signifieth a continuance in seasonable, prudent, and edifying discourse, as Job 27:22, 'My words dropped on them,' and Deut. 31:2, 'My doctrine shall drop as the rain:' Thus 'the lips of the wise feed many,' Prov. 10:21. Observe. 1. A believer's words tend to edification, and are for the true benefit and advantage of others. 2. Every subject is not the matter of their discourse; but, as the 'honey,' it is excellent and choice, and that which ministereth grace to the hearers. 3. Mens' words give a great proof of what is in them; and when rightly ordered, they are a good evidence of their love and respect to Christ. 4. A well ordered tongue is a most commendable thing before Christ, and every word that proceeds from the mouth, is observed by him. 5. Christ's Spouse should be observably different, as to her words and discourse, from all others, 'Thy lips, O my Spouse' (saith he) 'drop as the honey-comb:' implying, that whatever be the way of others, it becomes the Spouse of Christ, to have her words seasonable, savoury, and edifying.

The second thing here commended, reacheth more inwardly, and it is in these words, 'honey and milk are under thy tongue:' there will be sometimes smooth words as butter, when their is much venom within; it is not so with Christ's Bride. By 'under the tongue,' which is the part commended, we understand the heart or inward man, as it is distinguished from the bare expression of the tongue or words, which are only spoken (as we say) from the teeth forward: so, Psalm 66:17, He was exalted under my tongue, (as it is in the original) is expounded in the following verse, by 'heart-regarding:' there was an agreement betwixt his words and his heart, without which God would not have accepted his words. And seeing, when it is said of the wicked, that mischief and vanity are under their tongue, Psalm 10:7; Rom. 3:13, whereby their deceitful rotten heart, and the venom that is within is signified; so here must be understood inward sincerity, and a good frame of heart within, as well as good words without. The commendation is, that there are 'milk and honey under her tongue:' it is almost the same with the former; as her words were edifying, so there was much edifying matter in her heart, or under her tongue; the honey-comb (as it were) was there, and it by words dropped to others. 'Milk' is added, because it is also sweet and nourishing. In a word, that which he here points at, is, that her inward constitution and frame is like a Canaan, flowing with milk and honey; so fertile and fruitful is Christ's Bride, Here, observe, 1. That Christ takes not only notice of words, but of what is under the words; the disposition and frame of the heart, and the thoughts thereof are observed by him. 2. There is a suitableness often betwixt the heart within, and the words without; when there is honey under the tongue, then the tongue cannot but drop, for, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 3. It is a most commendable thing in the believer, when the inner-man is right, in a lively and edifying frame, and when the heart is watched over, so that no thought enters in, or word goes forth, but what is edifying. 4. The heart should be furnished with edifying, profitable purpose and thoughts, as well as the mouth with pertinent and useful words; and that is as the fountain, from which this must run and flow. 5. They will feed and edify others best by their words, who feed best upon the most healthful subjects, and savoury thoughts themselves.

The third thing commended, is, 'the smell of her garments:' garments are that which cover our nakedness, and are for decoration externally put upon the body; sometimes by them is understood Christ's righteousness, which we are said to put on, Gal. 3:27, sometimes our own inherent holiness, which makes our way comely before others, and hides our nakedness from them; so, Job 29:19, saith, 'I put on righteousness, and it clothed me:' Now, here it is to be taken especially in the last sense (though not only) as setting forth the outward adorning of her walk with holiness; and this is the third part of her commendation, distinguished from the other two, which pointed at her words and thoughts. And so it is the practice of holiness that is here commended, which is compared to 'garments,' because good works are called the clothing of such as profess godliness, 1 Tim. 2:9, and 1 Pet. 3:3, 4. The 'smell' of them, is the savour and relish of these good works to others, and also to him; even as it is said, that Jacob's garments did smell to his father (to which this may allude) so our holiness, being washed in the blood of the Lamb, is very savoury to him, and is also savoury to others; yea, the smell thereof is as 'the smell of Lebanon,' which was a hill that abounded with trees and flowers, exceeding savoury and delightsome: whereas a corrupt conversation, is exceeding unsavoury, as rottenness and dead mens' bones. In sum, this completes believers' commendation, when their words are edifying, their heart answerable to their words in true sincerity, and their outward walk adorning to the gospel, so as their natural nakedness and pollution appears not in it. Observe. 1. Where there is true holiness within, it will appear in the fruits of holiness without. 2. There is no garment or clothing that can adorn or beautify men, as holiness doth a believer. 3. Though outward profession alone be not all, yet is it necessary for the completing the commendation of a believer. 4. Although good works be not the ground of our relation to Christ, but follows on it, and though it be not on the account of our works, that the Lord is pleased with us to justify us; yet are the good works of a believer and of a justified person, when done in faith, acceptable to God, and an odour and sweet savour to him. Phil. 4:18.



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