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by James Durham
Verse 7. This thy stature is like to a palm-tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.
8. I said, I will go up to the palm-tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples;
9. And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.
The former two expressions, verses 5,6, have fallen from him (to speak so) in a ravished abrupt manner, by way of exclamation: the third way how he amplifies the commendation of the Bride, follows, verses 7,8,9, (as subjoined to the preceding particular description) and this amplification is expressed these three ways: 1. By commending her stature, as the result of all her parts (formerly described) put together with a repetition of one of these parts mainly taken notice of, verse 7. 2. By shewing his resolution to haunt her company, by which his respect to her appears, verse 8. 3. By promising gracious effects to follow on his performing the former promise, of his keeping company with her, verses 8,9.
The seventh verse then speaks to two things, her stature and her breasts: her stature respects all the by-gone parts being now put together, for so they represent the whole stature and by stature is understood the proportionableness and comeliness that is in the whole, being considered as jointly united in one body, as well as severally (as was said of him, chap. 5:16,) and the relative 'this,' clears it, 'this,' that is, 'this' which is made up of all the several parts I have been enumerating, they being put together, make thy stature, and thy stature thus made up of these members and parts, is 'like the palm-tree:' and so from this similitude, her stature is commended the palm-tree is recommended in scripture to have divers commendable properties, 1. It is straight: therefore it is said of the idols that they are 'upright like the palm-tree;' Jer. 10:5, straightness is comely in a stature, he was 'like to a cedar' chap. 5:15, she is like to a 'palm-tree' here. 2. A palm-tree hath good fruits, the dates are the fruit thereof. 3. It is a tree of long continuance, and keeps long green; hence, Psalm 92:12,14. It is said of the righteous, 'they shall flourish like the palm-tree:' therefore, Joel 1:12. It is an evidence of great drought, when 'the palm-tree withereth.' 4. They were looked on as most fit to be used in times when men were about to express their joy in the most solemn manner, and so when Christ is coming triumphantly to Jerusalem, John 12:they cut down 'branches of palm-trees,' to carry before him, and, Rev. 7:4, these victors have 'palms in their hands,' and in Levi. 23:40, we find branches of these trees commanded to be made use of in the joyful feast of tabernacles, and the 'seventy palm-trees' that were found by the Israelites at Elim, are mentioned, Num. 33:9, as refreshful, so is the city of palm-trees also mentioned as a most pleasant place, Deut. 34:3. All these may be applied to believers, who, both by the change that is wrought upon them by the grace of Christ, and also, as they are in him by faith, are such; they are straight not crooked, but beautiful and flourishing, and to him refreshful, as the next verse shews, being the living signs and monuments of his victory over death and the devil. Observe. 1. There ought not only to be in a believer, a thriving of graces distinctly, but a right joining, ordering, and compacting of them together, that they may keep a proportionableness, and make up complexly a lovely stature: that is, not only should all graces be kept in exercise together, but as members of one new man, each ought to be subservient to another, for making up of a sweet harmony in the result; love should not wrong zeal, nor zeal prudence; but every grace, as being a distinct member of the new man, should be settled in its own place, to make the stature lovely. 2. When this proportion is kept, and every grace hath its own place, it is exceeding lovely, like a beautiful stature; whereas grace, when acting unorderly (if then it may be called grace) is like an eye, beautiful in itself; but not being in the right place of the face, doth make the stature unlovely and disproportionable: it is not the least part of spiritual beauty, when not only one hath all graces, but hath every one of them acting according to their several natures, even when they are acting jointly together. 3. This furthers much believers' usefulness, and continues them fresh and green, when the whole stature of grace is right, and kept in a due proportionableness.
The particular that is again repeated, is her 'breasts,' which are compared to a 'cluster of grapes,' or 'wine,' as it is in the eighth verse. We conceive, by 'breasts' here, is signified her love and affection, whereby he is entertained, so, chap. 1:13. 'He shall lie all night between my breasts.' and so it agreeth well with that expression, Prov. 5:19, 'Let her breasts satisfy thee at all times, and be thou always ravished with her love:' this is confirmed from the similitude unto which it is compared, and that is, 'grapes,' or 'wine;' shewing that her love is refreshful, and cordial (to speak so) to him: thy breasts (saith he) that is, to lie between thy breasts, and, to be kindly entertained by thee, is more than wine to me: and this is the same thing which was said, chap. 4:10, 'How much better is thy love than wine?' And the similitude being the same, we think the thing is the same that is thereby set forth and commended; and it is singularly taken notice of by Christ through all the Song, and marked in chap. 4 and here, as that which makes all her stature so lovely in itself: love makes every grace act (therefore is it 'the fulfilling of the law') and makes grace in its actings beautiful and lovely to him. These words then, may either express, 1. The loveliness of her love: or, 2. The delight which he took in it, as esteeming highly of it; she was so very lovely, that nothing refreshed him so much as her breasts: which expression (as all the rest) holds out intense spiritual-love, under the expressions that are usual amongst men. And it says, 1. That the beauty of grace is a ravishing beauty; [f]or Christ's love delights in the love of his people; a room in their hearts is much prized by him. 2. Christ hath a complacency and acquiescence in his people, which he hath in none other, and where more grace is, there his complacency (though one in itself) doth the more manifest itself. 3. When a believer is right and in good case, then his love to Christ is warm: and particularly, a right frame is by nothing sooner evidenced, than by the affections; and it is ordinarily ill or well with us, as our love to Christ is vigorous or cold.
The second way how our Lord expresseth his love to his Bride, is in the beginning of verse 8, and it is by expressing of his resolution to accompany with her, beyond any in the world: she was compared to a palm-tree in the former verse, now (saith he) 'I will go up to the palm-tree' (that is, to the palm-tree before mentioned) it is on the matter the same with that promise, chap. 4:6, 'I will get me to the mountain of myrrh,' &c. Consider here, 1. The thing promised or proposed, and that is, his going 'up to the palm-tree,' and taking 'hold of the boughs thereof:' that the scope is to hold forth his purpose of manifesting himself to her, is clear, 1. By the dependence of this on the former, he had said, Thou art a palm-tree, and now (saith he) 'I will go up to the palm-tree,' which speaks his prizing that tree above all others. 2. The effects also of his going up, in the following words, do clear it; it is such a going up as hath refreshful and comfortable influence upon her: the importance of the similitude is, as men love the trees they converse much about (and it is like, palm-trees were much used for that end) or as climbing up upon trees, and taking hold of their boughs, do shew the delight and pleasure men have in such or such a tree, and how refreshing it is to them to be near it; so having compared her to a palm-tree, he expresseth his delight in her, and his purpose of manifesting himself to her, under the same similitude, as is ordinary in the strain of this Song. 2. Consider, that this resolution is laid down as no passing thought, but is a deliberate and determined resolution, 'I said I will go,' &c. 'I will take hold,' &c. which doth shew, 1. Christ's inward thoughts and conclusions with himself, this is his heart language. 2. The expression of these, and so the words come to be a promise, which the believer may make use of, as of a thing which Christ hath said. 3. It shews a deliberateness in both, that they were not sudden, but the advised result of a former deliberation, and that of old, I said it in a word (saith he) my Bride is my choice in all the world, the tree that I have resolved, for my delight, to climb up upon, beside all others. Observe, 1. The scope and result of all Christ's commendations of his Bride, is, that she may be brought to look for, and expect to be made happy with his own company, and to be unspeakably made up in the enjoyment of his presence. 2. It is not every one that hath the promise of Christ's company and fellowship, or that may expect it; it is the believer only who may look for it, he hath Christ's word for it, and none but he. 3. Christ's most passionate expressions of love are not from any surprise of affection in him, but are deliberately resolved, and that of old, so that now they cannot be altered; his delight was in the habitable parts of the earth, and his resolution was laid down to 'go up to the palm-tree' before it was. 4. Christ's thoughts to his people (if known) would be found to be precious, thoughts of peace and not of evil; many a good purpose hath been in his heart of old, and there is no greater evidence of love, neither can be, than to intimate and accomplish these, as he doth here; I laid down this resolution (saith he) long ere now, and I will follow it out. 5. A holy tender walk in believers (which is indeed to have the stature lovely as the palm-tree) will obtain the manifestation of Christ's heart to them; and there is no greater evidence of Christ's respect, than that, John 14:21, & 23.
The third way how he expresseth his love, is by the effects, which he promiseth shall follow on his presence with her, as his presence is subjoined to her lovely stature (which connexion is observable) the effects that follow, are three, the first two are in the second part of the eighth verse, and the first of them in these words, 'Now also thy breasts shall be as the clusters of the vine;' this is the first fruit of his going up to the palm tree, which (as also the rest of them) may be taken as comprehensive of these two. 1. Of some gracious effect that shall be wrought in the Bride, and so these words bring him in speaking to this purpose, when I come to thee, then by my presence thy grace shall flow, and thou shalt be in a capacity to edify others, and to satisfy me, as if thy breasts were clusters of the vine, to furnish what might be refreshful: thus he comforts her, from what should be wrought in her, by his presence with her: and the scope and connexion shews, that this cannot be excluded, it being a native consequence of his presence, and comfortable in itself to her, 2. They are to be looked upon as comprehensive of his gracious acceptation of her and her fruits, as being well satisfied with her; and thus the meaning of these words, 'Thy breasts shall he as clusters of the vine,' is this, when I shall come to thee, thy love and company, thy bosom (to say so) shall be to me more refreshful than clusters of the vine, I will feed upon it, and delight in it, as, chap. 4:10, this completes her consolation, and the evidence of his love, that he undertakes it shall be well with her inward condition, and that he shall accept of her also, and be well satisfied with her: these are not only consistent together, but do necessarily concur for making up the scope, which is to evidence his love, and to comfort her; and the one of these follows on the other, therefore, we comprehend both in all these effects. Observe. 1. Christ's presence hath much influence on believers' liveliness; their breasts run when he is present. 2. Liveliness is a singular and comfortable mercy in a believer's estimation; therefore it is promised as a thing that is in a special way comfortable to her. 3. Christ's presence, or nearness with him, and fruitfulness, go together: and where thy breasts are not as clusters, no condition the believer can be in, is to be accounted presence.
The second effect is in these words, 'And the smell of thy nose like apples.' Apples are savoury fruit, the smell of the nose is the savour of the breath, that comes from it, which in unwholesome bodies is unsavoury; saith he to the Bride, thine shall not be so, but thy constitution shall be lively, and all that comes from thee shall be savoury, and so shall be accepted of me; it shall be savoury in itself, as apples are to the smell, and it shall be delighted in by me, as having a sweet air and breath with it: this imports a conspicuous inward change, by the growth of mortification, whereby believers being purified within from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, there proceeds nothing from them but what is savoury, whereas a loose and ragged conversation, as corrupt breath (Job 17:1.) evidenceth much inward rottenness. Observe, 1. Christ's presence, is of an healing, cleansing virtue, and makes an observable inward change. 2. An inward change evidenceth itself in the outward fruits and effects, the very smell and savour of the conversation, and of all external duties, is changed. 3. This inward purity is very desirable to the believer; for so it is here a piece of his comfort, to have a promise that the smell of his nose shall be as apples, and it is a special evidence of Christ's respect, to have that performed.
It may also take in the savouriness of the believers' breathing, in respect of themselves; when Christ is present, they shall draw in a wholesome, pleasant and refreshful air; whereas now ordinarily we breathe in a corrupt air: it shall not be so then, saith he, the smell of thy nose shall be as if thou didst savour of apples: Christ's company makes all both fruitful within, and refreshful to the believer, and also makes all duties and all dispensations he is exercised with, savoury and acceptable to himself; all which follow on Christ's presence, and suits with the scope, that saith, both taste and smell are satisfied.
The third lovely effect of Christ's presence, is in the 9th verse: and, 1st, The effect itself is set down, then its commendation is amplified. The effect, or advantage of Christ's presence, is in these words, 'The roof of thy mouth' (or thy palate) 'shall be as the best wine;' the palate, or roof of the mouth, is the instrument of taste, and so is sometimes taken for the taste itself, and is so translated, chap. 2:3, 'His fruit was sweet to my taste:' so Job 34:3, or by palate may be understood the mouth, as, chap. 5:16. Next, it is compared to wine, yea, the best wine (the reasons of the comparison have been often spoken to) the best wine is that which is most refreshing and exhilarating: now this wine is three ways set out in its excellency (for, that the following expressions are to this purpose, is clear) 1. It is 'for my beloved,' that is, such wine as he allows his friends, whom he styles beloved, chap. 5:l. (and this shows what kind of wine is understood) and so it must be excellent wine, being that which is allowed on Christ's special friends. Or, it is an abrupt expression, whereby he speaks in name of the Bride; it is such wine as I (as if she were speaking) allow on thee, my beloved, and which I reserve only for thee for which reason, she is called a fountain sealed, and garden inclosed, as being set apart for him, and not common to others; and thus is he expressing in her name, what she expresseth herself in the last words of this chapter, it is all 'for thee my beloved;' and it implieth both a commendation of its sweetness, and her devoting of it to him. However, the words hold forth something that proves it to be excellent and not common, but such as is; found among those who stand in this spiritual relation. 2. It is commended from this, that 'it goeth down sweetly,' that is, it is pleasant to the taste, and is not harsh, but delightsomely may be drunk off; or, it may respect that property of good wine, mentioned, Prov. 23:31. (that it 'moves itself rightly') if the words be translated as the margin imports. 3. It is commended from the effects, it drinks sweetly, and when it is drunk, 'It causeth the lips of those that are asleep to speak.' Wine is cordial and refreshful, but this wine must be in a singular way refreshful, that makes men that are infirm, or old (as the word may be rendered) and almost dead, to revive and speak, or those that were secure (as the Bride was, chap. 5:2.) and in a spiritual drowsiness, it can quicken them, and make them cheerfully speak; thus the wine is commended.
Now we conceive, by this comfortable effect, that is promised to her upon Christ's coming to her, these two things are here holden forth. 1. How refreshing it shall be to herself, all her senses shall be taken with it, both the smell and the taste; it shall be singularly sweet to her spiritual taste, as it is, chap. 2:3. And thus the wine of the Spirit is commended, which accompanies his manifestations, and is reserved for his beloved, chap.5:1. And it is a joy that no stranger is made partaker of: this wine is indeed peculiar for his beloved, (and is suitable to himself) and is the wine that goeth sweetly down; and is most refreshful, and makes secure sinners to speak, and those that are faint it revives them, as Eph. 5:18, 'Be not filled with wine,' &c. but 'be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord:' this effect agrees well to the Spirit, yea, only to this wine of the Spirit: and it suits well the scope, which is to shew what comfortable influence Christ's presence should have on her, so that when he comes to his palm-tree, her taste shall relish as with the best wine; his presence shall thus revive and quicken her, and be a special evidence of his singular respect to her.
2. It holds out (which follows on the former) that not only her breath shall savour well to him and others, and her inward senses abound with refreshings to herself, but also the expressions of her mouth, to others shall be savoury, and to him refreshful, as a dellghtsome fruit flowing from her: thus (saith he), when I betake me to fellowship with thee, and come near by sensible embracements, to take hold of thy boughs (as a man embracing one whom he loves; for thus the allegory is spiritually to be understood) thou shalt be to me, and in my esteem, exceedingly lovely; thy breasts, smell, and mouth, will be cheering and savoury, like grapes, apples, and the best wine: and here spiritual affections and holy reason should be made use of, to gather the life of Christ's love from the effects of it, with some resemblance of what useth to be betwixt man and wife, in their mutual loving carriage (for so runs the strain of this song) although our carnalness makes it hazardous, and unsafe to descend in the explication of these similitudes: and thus, as chap. 5:16, by his month or palate, was understood the kisses thereof, or the most sensible manifestations of his love to her: so here, by her palate or mouth, is understood her most affectionate soul-longings of love to him, which being warmed and melted by his presence, doth manifest itself in a kindly way, in spiritual embraces and kisses (as from verse 11 and 12 will be clear) which are exceedingly delightsome to him: and so the sense of this promise is, when I come to thee, then, yea even now, thy love with the sense of mine shall be warmed and refreshed, so that it shall in an affectionate way vent itself on me, and that shall be as the most exhilarating cordial unto me, as the manifestations of my love will be cheering and refreshing unto thee; both which are notably comfortable to her, and special evidences of his respect, which is the scope.
Observe. 1. There are some secret flowings of love, and soul-experiences between Christ and believers, that are not easily understood; and that makes the expressions of his love so seemingly intricate. 2. These flowings of love that are betwixt Christ and his people (how strange soever they be) are most delightsome to the soul that partakes of them, they are as 'wine that goeth down sweetly.' 3. Christ's presence hath many benefits and advantages waiting on it, which contribute exceedingly both to the quickening and comforting of the believer; many things hang on this one, 'his going up to the palm-tree.' 4. The joy of the Spirit hath notable effects, and can put words in the mouth of those that never spoke much before, yea, can make the dumb to sing, with a sensible warming of the heart and inward affections, stirring up melody in their souls, which yet will be distinct in the impressions and effects of it. 5. Our Lord Jesus hath designed the comfort of the believer, which he holdeth out in comfortable promises, and alloweth them to make use of it, and it is pleasant and delightsome to him to have them so doing.
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