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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Song of Solomon 4

 

 

Verse 1

Song of Solomon 4:1 Behold, thou [art] fair, my love; behold, thou [art] fair; thou [hast] doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair [is] as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.

Ver. 1. Behold thou art fair, my love, behold thou art fair.] Thou art, thou art; and I am much taken with it, so that I cannot but set an Ecce admirantis Behold, wonder at it, upon it. I am so rapt and ravished; yea, I would that others also should behold it, and be enamoured with it. As the Church called upon her daughters of Zion, in the last verse of the former chapter, to go forth and see her Bridegroom in all his bravery, and to help to crown him; so here interchangeably, Christ calls upon all sorts to contemplate his beautiful bride in all the "comeliness that he hath put upon her," [Ezekiel 16:14] and that crown of twelve stars that he hath set upon her head, [Revelation 12:1] so that "in everything she is enriched by him, and cometh behind in no gift." [1 Corinthians 1:5; 1 Corinthians 1:7]

Thou hast doves’ eyes.] Particularly Christ commendeth her eyes, hair, teeth, lips, temples, neck, and breasts. He that would praise another, is careful to take in whatsoever of him may be thought praiseworthy. Christ only is able to give his Church her due commendation; because he only "knows all men, and needeth not that any should testify of man, for he knoweth what is in man." [John 2:24-25] All others that shall undertake such a business had need say, as Mr Bradford the martyr saith of that peerless King Edward VI So many things are to be spoken in commendation of God’s graces in this child - who yet was but one of those many that make up the Church; but yet such a one, that as he was the chiefest, so I think the holiest and godliest in the realm of England, saith the same blessed Bradford - that as Sallust writes of Carthage, I had rather speak nothing than too little, in that too much is too little. (a) An exact face, saith Pliny, is seldom drawn but with great disadvantage; (b) how much more when a bungler hath it in hand? In which regard Alexander the Great forbade his portraiture to be painted by any other than Apelles, or to be carved by any other but Lysippus, men famous in those faculties. Behold here one that goes far beyond them both (the greatest artisan in the world), pencilling out to the life, and setting forth a complete character of his dearest spouse, whom he had "in his heart to die and to live with," [2 Corinthians 7:3] as the high priest had the twelve tribes, [Exodus 28:29] and St Paul his Corinthians, though "the more he loved, the less he was beloved." [2 Corinthians 12:15] But to come to her particular praises - "Thou hast doves’ eyes," that is, fair, full, clear, chaste. {See Trapp on "Song of Solomon 1:15"} Eyes the true Church hath, and those both opened and enlightened. [Acts 26:18] She cries not up ignorance as the mother of devotion, neither doth she send forth blind guides, to require blind obedience, as the Popish Padres do with their novices; to put out the eyes of those poor misled and muzzled ignoramuses, and to lead them blindfold into the midst of their deadly enemies, as Elisha did the Syrians into Samaria. The Church here described hath (as Solomon’s wise man) her eyes in her head; yea, she hath two eyes, when the rest of the world hath but one (as the Chinese vainly brag of themselves), (c) a praise proper to the Church of Christ. She lifteth not up her eyes unto idols, [Ezekiel 18:6] but to the Holy One of Israel, [Isaiah 17:7] her eyes are doves’ eyes. Every child of Christ’s Church hath a spiritual eyesight, an insight into the mystery of Christ, communication of Christ’s secrets, "the mind of Christ." [1 Corinthians 2:16] She hath no blind children; for, though born blind, yet Christ hath anointed them with his eye-salve, [Revelation 3:18] and given both light and sight. But by "eyes" here we are chiefly to understand pastors and ministers, those "seers," as they were called of old, [1 Samuel 9:9] those "lights of the world," [Matthew 5:14-16] "burning and shining lights," [John 5:35] as the Baptist was called, whose office is to be to God’s people "instead of eyes," [Numbers 10:31] and "to open the eyes of the blind, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God," &c. [Acts 26:18] And these are to have doves’ eyes, seeking to present unto Christ every man chaste and pure in the simplicity of the gospel. [2 Corinthians 11:2-3]

Within thy locks.] Seemly tied up and covered, as the word imports, without pride or affectation; not laid out, as the manner is, of vain and unshamefaced women, but thick, fair, and modestly made up, to show the Church’s modesty and humility, which is the knot of every virtue, and ornament of every grace, as St Peter’s word, εγκομβωσασθε, holds it forth. [1 Peter 5:5]

Their hair is as a flock of goats, &c.] They are fat and well liking; and so their hair lay smooth, slick, and shining. By the Church’s hair here may be meant the community of true Christians, that, being as the hair innumerable, do adhere to Christ as to their head, and have a promise that not one hair of that sacred head shall fall to the ground; and that if any son of Belial shall offer to shear or shave them, he shall answer it as dearly as the Ammonites did the like abuse done to David’s ambassadors. [2 Samuel 10:3-4]


Verse 2

Song of Solomon 4:2 Thy teeth [are] like a flock [of sheep that are even] shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none [is] barren among them.

Ver. 2. Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep, &c.] Handsome teeth set forth a woman very well, and they are then held handsome when they are (1.) Even and well matched; (2.) Fair and white; (3.) Thick and full. All this we have here daintily set forth in an allegory. And by teeth the Chaldee paraphrast will have meant (and I dissent not) the priests and Levites of the law, the pastors and preachers, think I, of the Church; who, as they must be "eyes" to see, so they nmst be "teeth" in another regard - viz. (1.) To chew; (2.) To bite. First, They must champ and chew the children’s meat for them, as good nurses, such as Paul was, [1 Thessalonians 2:7] and before him Isaiah. [Isaiah 28:9] Whom shall he teach knowledge, and whom shall he make to understand? Not the wise and prudent, not conceited persons, that make divinity only a matter of discourse, or come to hear only to exercise their critics, and to sit as judges on their ministers’ gifts. But such as are "weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts." And how will he do to deal with such, and to "divide the word aright" {ορθοτομειν, 2 Timothy 2:25} to them? He will praemansum cibum in os indere, mollify their harder meat for them, that it hurt not the tender toothless gums of these weanlings, weaklings "Precept," saith he, "shall be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, and there a little." They shall have it as they can take it, neither will he put that upon them that is not fit for them. They shall have milk, and not strong meat; or if they have, it shall be ready chewed for them. Our Saviour spake "as the people could hear," [Mark 4:33] and not as he could have spoken. "If we have spoken to you," saith he, "of earthly things" (that is, of spiritual matters under earthly similitudes borrowed from wind, water, &c.) "and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?" [John 3:12] that is, of more sublime matters and mysteries of eternal life. Ministers must stoop to their hearers’ capacities, and not be up in their altitudes, or deliver their discourses in a high language, in a Roman English, &c. For what is that but to "beat the air," to lose their labour, and to be "as barbarians to their hearers?" &c. Non oratorum filii sumus, sed piscatorum; nec verborum πευροχη, sed Spiritus επιδειξει, said that great divine to Libanius the rhetorician. We are not orators, but preachers; neither come we with "excellence of words," but with "evidence of the Spirit and of power," and "by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God." [1 Corinthians 2:4 2 Corinthians 4:2] This is preaching; the art whereof plus operis habet quam ostentationis, as Quintillian saith of the art of grammar, is not a matter of show, but of service. And to the ears of that which St Peter calls "the hidden man of the heart," the plain song always makes the best music.

But, secondly, As ministers must masticate the children’s meat, and make it fit for eating, so they are bound to bite - that is, to "rebuke sharply" (a) those that are unsound in their faith, or enormous in their practice; [Titus 1:13] to gore their very souls with smarting pain, and to sting their consciences to the quick, with the forked arrows of biting reproofs and unquestionable convictions. "Thine arrows are sharp in the hearts of the king’s enemies, whereby the people fall under thee." [Psalms 45:5] Ministers must not only whet their teeth against the wicked (as boars do their tusks when provoked), but set their teeth in the sides of those boars that root up the vineyard, and those foxes that destroy the grapes. Thus the ancient prophets pricked and pierced the hearts of their hearers; so did the holy apostles, St Peter for instance. He so handled the matter that they were punctually "pricked at heart" (b) [Acts 2:37] they felt the nails wherewith they had crucified Christ sticking fast in their own spirits, and driven home to the head by that "Master of the assembly." [Ecclesiastes 12:11] Penitence and pain are words of one derivation, and are very near of kin. Hardly will men be made to repent till touched to the quick, till the Preacher do mordaci radere vero, (c) deal plainly and roundly with them, stab them to the heart with the menaces of the law, and lay them for dead at Christ’s feet, that he may revive them, as the pelican doth her young ones with her blood. It is said of Chrysostom, that he took the same liberty to cry down sin that men did to commit it. (d) Of Mr Bradford, that as he did earnestly persuade to a godly life, and sweetly preach Christ crucified, so he did sharply reprove sin, and zealously impugn errors. Of Mr Perkins, that he came so close in his applications, that he was able almost to make his hearers’ hearts fall down, and their hairs to stand upright. This was preaching indeed, preaching in the life of it. I know well that most men are sick of a Noli me tangere, and are apt to hate him that reproveth in the gate. As loath they are to be searched as Rachel, when she sat upon the idols; to have their lusts mortified, as David was to have Absalom executed. "Handle him gently, for my sake," &c. Cannot preachers meddle only with toothless truths, say they, as Balak bade Balaam neither curse nor bless at all. But why hath Christ given his ministers teeth, but to bite and be bitter against sin and wickedness? personal invectives, indeed, proceeding from private grudge, he allows not. Spiritus Christi nec mendax, nec mordax. The Spirit of Christ is neither deceitful nor caustic. The rule here is,

Parcere nominibus, dicere de vitiis.

“To space by names, is to say concerning the crimes.”

Of Erasmus it is said that he was Mente et dente potens, sharp with discretion. Every minister should be so; and his doctrine should distil as honey, as the property whereof is to purge wounds, but to bite ulcers; (e) it causeth pain to exulcerate parts, though of itself sweet and medicinable.

That are even shorn.] The commendations of a set of teeth, whereof before. (1.) Even they must be and well matched; so should ministers be "likeminded, having the same love; being of one accord, and of one mind," [Philippians 2:2] serving the Lord with one shoulder, [Zephaniah 3:9] not shouldering one another, and striving for precedence, but content with a parity, and in giving honour, going one before another. The six branches in the golden candlestick joined all in one, and the cherubims in the temple looked one toward another, which some think signified the agreement and oneness that should be between the ministers of the gospel.

Which came up from the washing.] (2.) Fair and white, washed in the king’s bath of Christ’s blood, famous and eximious for their extraordinary and exemplary holiness. It is their office to be fullones animarum, to make and keep white the fleeces of their flocks, the people’s souls. And therefore themselves had need be as Jerusalem’s Nazarites were, Lamentations 4:7, "Purer than snow, whiter than milk," &c.

Whereof every one bears twins.] Gemelliparae. It must be ministers’ care to bring many to God, whom they may one day present with, Here am I, and the children whom thou hast given me. Aaron’s sons, by generation, are said to be Moses’ sons by institution and instruction. [Numbers 3:1] See Galatians 4:19, 1 Corinthians 4:15. "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them."


Verse 3

Song of Solomon 4:3 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.

Ver. 3. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet.] Which hath two comely properties, small and ruddy. A thin lip is a sign of eloquence; [Job 12:20] Pitho sits upon it. As, on the other side, a thick lip is an uncircumcised lip, [Exodus 6:12] a polluted lip. [Isaiah 6:5] Scarlet or coralline lips are counted a great grace, as white, black, bluish lips are held no small deformity. The Church’s lips are her Christian confessions, whether to God or men. To God, when she acknowledgeth his favours (and so covereth his altar with the calves of her lips), or confesseth her sins with all the aggravations, bringing them forth as they did the vessels of the sanctuary, [Ezra 8:34] by tale and by weight, bewailing and begging pardon for all their transgressions in all their sins, as the words are. [Leviticus 16:21] To man she confesseth when she makes a wise and bold profession of the truth; not "afraid with any amazement," [1 Peter 3:6] but ready to "resist even unto blood." [Hebrews 12:4] The tabernacle was covered over with red (and the scarlet whore would fain persuade us that she takes up that colour for the same intent), to note that we must stand to the profession of the truth, even to effusion of blood. This confession of the mouth [Romans 10:10] is set forth here by lips red as scarlet, because it must be lively, not fady or frigid, but full of faith, and dyed in Christ’s blood. It is also described by a thread of scarlet, because, as a thread, it must be drawn out to the full length, and not cut off, so long as life lasteth, for any fear or other by respect whatsoever. Surely, as Augustine said of the feast of Pentecost, Gaudet produci haec solennitas; so may we say of Christian confession, It rejoiceth to be held out to the last breath. And as the silk worm stretcheth forth herself before she spin, and ends her life in her long wrought clue, so it is with the faithful confessor.

And thy speech is comely.] Because grave and gracious, framed in Scripture phrase as much as may be, and therefore comely and delectable. Loquamur verba Scripturae, utamur sermone Spiritus Sancti, &c., said that incomparable man Peter Ramus; Let us speak the very words of Scripture, let us make use of the language of the Holy Ghost, and for ever abominate those logodaedali, learned asses, that profanely disdain at the stately plainness of God’s blessed book, and that think to correct the divine wisdom and eloquence with their own infancy and sophistry. It is the Church only that speaks handsomely, because holily, and as the oracles of God. [1 Peter 4:11] She is, as one well saith of Basil, suaviter gravis, et graviter suavis, nihil habens affectatae loquacitatis, sweetly grave, and gravely sweet, neither troublesomely talkative nor sinfully silent; verborum parca, sententiarum dives, as another (a) saith of Livy, few words, but full of matter.

Thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate.] A pomegranate hath many grains within his case, and a little round circle or crown without upon his head. Now these grains being sweet in taste, and red in colour, are orderly set one by another, and point up, and as it were look up altogether unto the crown; to intimate thus much, say Beda and Haimo, that the children of the Church must grow on still toward the mark, not only when they enjoy the sweet taste of pleasant prosperity, but also when they bear the red colour of bloody persecution; and, consenting in a kind of conformity and perfect peace, they must point up altogether with the finger of faith to Christ, and look up continually with the eye of love to their head, Christ, who, being first crossed, is now come to be crowned with honour and glory. Some do explain this "piece of a pomegranate," when it is cut, to signify the reverend and modest countenance of tbe Church, as fearing and taking heed lest she should speak or do amiss, or blushing, if she hath failed. Others expound it of the good works of God’s people - compared to an "orchard of pomegranates" [Song of Solomon 4:9] - beautiful and comely, but yet imperfect; like as there is no pomegranate that hath not one rotten grain in it.


Verse 4

Song of Solomon 4:4 Thy neck [is] like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.

Ver. 4. Thy neck is like the tower of David,] i.e. Fair and forcible - erectum et celsum, upright and lofty. It betokeneth the invincible courage and comfortable carriage of the Church, not "giving place to her enemies by subjection, no, not for an hour." [Galatians 2:5] "Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say, yet never have they prevailed against me," &c. [Psalms 129:1-4] Neither shall the gates of hell ever do it. She shall set her feet in the necks of her enemies; but her neck (as the horse’s, Job 39:19) shall be clothed with thunder, so long as, with outstretched neck, she "looks up unto the hills from whence cometh her help" [Psalms 121:1] - even those everlasting hills [Genesis 49:26] where her David, the Lord Christ, dwells as in a tower, and from thence succours her, as the people said once to David. [2 Samuel 18:3] Besides the fresh supply (a) of his free Spirit, [Philippians 1:19] fortifying their hearts against the tyranny of sin and terror of hell, he hath furnished for her a most admirable armoury - viz., the sacred Scriptures - with armour that is polished and prepared for most necessary uses. (b) So that the saints are those true Argyraspides, as Alexander’s old soldiers were called: for defence they have, besides that privy armour of peace with God [Philippians 4:7] and joy in the Holy Ghost, [Nehemiah 8:13] the breastplate of righteousness, the girdle of truth, the shield of faith, and shoes of patience; and for offence, they have the sword of the Spirit and darts of prayer. [Ephesians 6:14-16]

All weapons of mighty men.] Meet for such, and not for mean men; and all to be fetched out of the armoury of the Scriptures by our Saviour’s own example. [Matthew 4:4] The Word of God hath a power in it to quail and quell all our spiritual enemies, far better than that wooden dagger, that leaden sword of the Papists - their holy waters, crossings, medals, relics, &c. This the devil knows, and therefore sets his Antichristian instruments on work to take away this armoury from the common people (as the Philistines took away all weapons from the Israelites), and to give this wicked advice, as Bristow (c) did, to get heretics out of their weak and false tower of holy Scriptures into the plain field of councils and fathers, &c.; which if they should do, as we trust they never shall, yet we dare be bold to say, with learned Whitaker, Patres in maximis sunt nostri, in multis varii, in minimis vestri. (d) The Fathers, in most material points, are for us, and not them. As for the Papists, we know how disdainfully they reject the Fathers when they make against them. Bellarmine (e) saith, To Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius, and Luther, I answer, Omnes manifesti haeretici sunt, They are all manifest heretics. When anything in Gregory, or other ancients, pleaseth them not, the gloss upon that saith, Hoc non credo, I do not believe this, or sets Palea chaff, upon it; or Hoc antiquum est, This is in old time, and happened in illo tempore at that time. And Cornelius Mus, on Romans 3:1-31, speaks out the sense of the whole rabble of them, Plus uni Pontifici crederem, quam mille Augustinis; I would sooner believe one Pope than a thousand Augustines. How much better that learned Picus Mirandula (f) (a Papist too), Simplici potius rustico et infanti et aniculae magis quam Pontifici Maximo et mille Episcopis credendum est, si isti contra Evangelium, illi pro Evangelio faciant; We should sooner and rather believe a plain countryman, an infant, or an old wife, than the Pope and a thousand bishops, if the former speak or do according to the Scripture, the latter against it. And what a strong neck had Luther, scorning to stoop to Antichrist’s yoke, when he professeth that if the Pope, as Pope, should command him to receive the communion in both kinds, he would but receive in one kind, though he were otherwise very earnest to have it administered in both, according to the Gospel, lest he should seem to receive the mark of the beast!


Verse 5

Song of Solomon 4:5 Thy two breasts [are] like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.

Ver. 5. Thy two breasts are like two young roes, &c.] From the neck he descendeth to the breasts, and by these descriptions of beauty in all parts (for the rest are to be understood, though not here specified) is signified, that the spirit of regeneration worketh upon the whole man in all manner of virtue. Holiness in the heart, as the candle in the lantern, appears in the body, and every member thereof. Spirit, soul, and body are sanctified throughout, [1 Thessalonians 5:23] like as the most holy place, the sanctuary, and the outer court of Solomon’s temple, were filled with the cloud. The Church’s breasts here are said to be fair, full, and equally matched. Hereby some understand the two testaments, those "breasts of consolation," [Isaiah 66:11] fair and full, strutting with "sincere milk," that her children may all suck and be satisfied - viz., batten, grow up, and increase with the increase of God, to a full stature in Christ. [1 Peter 2:2] These breasts are also suitable and equal, as twins. The two testaments are so in sundry respects; for, as the Old Testament hath four sorts of books - viz., legal, historic, wisdom, prophetic, so hath the New in a due proportion. Answerable to the legal are the evangelical; to the historical are the Acts of the Apostles; to the wisdom or dogmatic are the epistles - wherein, as St Paul principally presseth faith, so St Peter hope, and St John charity - and to the prophetical, Apocalyps, ut sic mira sit conformitas, saith Bonaventure, non solum in continentia sensuum, sed in quadriformitate partium, so that there is a wondrous conformity of one testament to another, not only in the similarity of sense, but in the quadriformity also of parts. And this was mystically set forth, saith he, by Ezekiel in his vision of the wheel with four faces, and this wheel within a wheel, implying the Old Testament in the New, and the New Testament in the Old.


Verse 6

Song of Solomon 4:6 Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.

Ver. 6. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away,] i.e., Till that last and great day of the Lord dawn, that "day of refreshing," [Acts 3:19] that day of consolation, as the Syriac hath it, [John 11:24] when "everlasting joy shall be upon the heads of all believers; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (a) Till that blessed time, Christ, in answer to his spouse’s request, [Song of Solomon 2:17] promiseth to get him "to the mountains of myrrh"; that is, not to heaven, as some sense it, but to his Church militant, frequently called God’s holy mountain, and here "mountains of myrrh, and hills of incense," as in allusion to Mount Moriah, whereon the temple was builded, so especially in reference to the prayers and good works of the saints, those evangelical sacrifices wherewith God is well pleased. Some there are that, comparing this with Song of Solomon 2:17, make these to be the Church’s words; that as there she requested speedy help of Christ in the time of her sorrow, so here in like temptation she fleeth for refuge to the "mount of myrrh, and hill of frankincense," to the holy ordinances where she hopeth for comfort.


Verse 7

Song of Solomon 4:7 Thou [art] all fair, my love; [there is] no spot in thee.

Ver. 7. Thou art all fair, my love.] Christ, having graciously answered his spouse’s petition with a promise of his gracious presence with her and providence over her, proceeds in her commendation. A perfection of parts he here grants her, though not of degrees, a comparative perfection also in regard of the wicked, whose "spot is not the spot of his children." [Deuteronomy 31:5] He calls her his spouse in the next verse. The Hebrew word (a) imports that, being dressed in all her bride attire, she is all fair, and hath perfection of beauty, [Jeremiah 2:32] and is all glorious within and without, not having spot, wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and spotless. [Ephesians 5:26-27] Fair he called her before, [Song of Solomon 4:1] but new,

All fair.] And therefore "the fairest among women," a suitable mate for him who is "fairer than all the children of men." [Psalms 45:2] Not but that she hath, while here, her infirmities and deformities, as the moon hath her blots and blemishes but these are ut naevi in vultu Veneris; these serve as foils to set off her superexcellent beauty, or rather the superabundant grace of Christ, who "seeth no sin in Jacob"; that is, imputeth none but freely accepteth his own work in his people, and sweetly passeth by whatsoever is amiss in them. Perfection is what they breathe after, and that which is already begun in them; they have the firstfruits of the Spirit, and all their strife is to "attain to the resurrection of the dead"; that is, to that perfection of holiness that accompanieth the state of the resurrection. [Philippians 3:11]

There is no spot in thee,] i.e., None in mine account none such as the wicked are full of {See Trapp on "Deuteronomy 32:5"} - no leopard spots that cannot be washed away with any water. Faults will escape the best man between his fingers: Nimis angusta res est nusquam errare, In many things we offend all. [James 3:2] But as David saw nothing in lame Mephibosheth but what was lovely, because he saw in him the features of his friend Jonathan; so God, beholding his offending people in the face of his Son, takes no notice of anything amiss in them. They are, as that tree of paradise, [Genesis 3:6] fair to his eye, and pleasant to his palate; or as Absalom, in whom there was no blemish from head to foot, so are they irreprehensible and without blemish before the throne of God. [Revelation 14:5]


Verse 8

Song of Solomon 4:8 Come with me from Lebanon, [my] spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.

Ver. 8. Come with me from Lebanon, &c.] Or, Thou shalt come with me - by way of promise. And it is doubled for more certainty; q.d., Nothing shall hinder thee, but thou shalt indeed come with me, and enjoy my continual presence. This she had begged hard for in the former chapters, and this she is now sweetly assured of, with a new largesse of love sealed up in the kindest compellation, "spouse," which signifies the wife married and already joined to her husband. Yea, in the next verse he calleth her both "sister" and "spouse." The nearest affinity is spouse, and the nearest blood sister. Thus Christ is better to his people than their prayers - better than their hopes. Hezekiah asked one life; God gave him two, adding fifteen years to his days. David asked life, and God "gave him life for ever and ever." [Psalms 21:4] "Hitherto ye have asked me nothing," [John 16:24] saith Christ; that is, nothing to what I am ready to give you. He stands disposed to his suitors, as Naaman did toward Gehazi. [2 Kings 5:22-23] Gehazi asked but one talent. Nay, take two, saith Naaman; one is too little, take two. And he pressed him, and heaped them upon him. God deals with his servants as the prophet did with that widow, when he bade her borrow vessels, and the cruse never ceased running till there was no room. [2 Kings 4:1-7] Or as he dealt with the Shunammite in the same chapter, when he bade her ask what she needed, and she found not anything to request at his hands; he sends for her again, and makes her a free promise of that which she most wanted and desired, and tells her that God would give her a son.

From Lebanon, look from the top of Amana.] Or Abanah, as the river running under it was called. [2 Kings 5:12] And Strabo saith, (a) that it was a mountain forcibly possessed by many tyrants. Of Shenir and Hermon, see Deuteronomy 3:9. These all were haunted with wild beasts, even Lebanon also, [2 Kings 14:9] though otherwise a pleasant and plentiful place. [Deuteronomy 3:25] Hereby is signified, that the Lord Christ from all parts will call and collect unto himself a people; and although he find them lions and leopards, as here, untameable and untractable, he will soon subdue them to the obedience of the faith, so that "the lion shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid." [Isaiah 11:6] All bloodiness and rapine shall be laid aside, as it was with the wild beasts in Noah’s ark. Thus Paul, that ravening wolf of the tribe of Benjamin, [Genesis 49:27] is made to "preach the faith which once he destroyed." [Galatians 1:23] Thus the ancient Britons, our forefathers, though like that demoniac in the Gospel, "fierce above measure," and inhospitable savages, so that the Romans could not come at them, Christo tamen subditi, saith Tertullian; yet they were easily subdued by Christ; and then sensim evanuit feritas indies, exulavit immanitas, corruit crudelitas, (b) saith one, they were suddenly and strangely altered - not civilised only, but sanctified. So was Justin Martyr, Cyprian, Augustine, Vergerius, Latimer, Julius Palmer, that Popish priest of Canterbury, who said mass on one day, and the next day after came into the pulpit and made a long sermon against it, desiring the people to forgive him, for he had betrayed Christ, &c. As long before him, in Wycliffe’s days, and by his means, one that was the Pope’s chaplain renounced him, professing that he came out of his order, as out of the devil’s nest, &c. And although not a scholar in Oxford would look upon the good Bishops Ridley and Cranmer, prisoners in Bocardo, but generally set against them, yet the whole body of that university gave a glorious testimony under their public seal of Wycliffe’s religious life, profound learning, orthodox opinions, exquisite writings, all furthest from any stain of heresy. (c) See what Christ can do where he pleaseth to come in by his mighty Spirit.


Verse 9

Song of Solomon 4:9 Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, [my] spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.

Ver. 9. Thou hast ravished mine heart, &c.] Thou hast caught it, and carried it from me, so that I am least master of it; for Animus est potius ubi amat, quam ubi animat, (a) The heart is the place where it loves, and not where it lives. The Hebrew is, "Thou hast behearted me" (as we say, one is beheaded, behipt, &c.). Thou hast robbed me of my heart, and laid thyself in the room; thy love is fixed in the table of my heart, so the Chaldee expoundeth it. Excellently spake he, (b) who called the Holy Scripture Cor et animam Dei, the heart and soul of God: and another (c) father is bold to say, Cor Pauli, est cor Christi, Christ and Paul had exchanged hearts as it were. For, "we have the mind of Christ," [1 Corinthians 2:16] saith he, - communication of Christ’s secrets. And surely when the saints hide Christ’s words in their hearts, as his mother Mary did, when they give themselves wholly up to it, as the Macedonians did, so that the word of Christ, "indwells richly in them in all wisdom," [Colossians 3:16] and he by his Spirit putteth "his laws into their minds," so that they assent unto them, and "into their hearts," [Hebrews 8:10] so that they consent unto them, and have the comfort, feeling, and fruition of them, then is his heart ravished with his own handiwork; then is he so far in love with such a soul, as that, Esther like, she may have anything of the King. "The King is not he that can do anything against you"; [Jeremiah 38:5] Christ saith seriously so. His heart is become a very lump of love toward his sister, as nearest unto him in consanguinity, his spouse is nearest also in affinity, Sanctior est copula cordis, quam corporis. Christ is endeared to his people in all manner of nearest relations. For whosoever shall do the will of his Father, the same is his brother, and sister, and mother; [Matthew 12:50] "And in every nation he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him." [Acts 10:35]

With one of thine eyes.] With that single eye of thine, [Matthew 6:22] that looks on me singly abstracted from all other things, and affects thine heart with pure love to me for myself, more than for my Love Tokens; that eye of faith that looks up to my mercy seat, yea, that pierceth heaven, as St Stephan’s bodily eye did, he being "full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God." [Acts 7:55] Heaven is so high above the earth, that it is a just wonder that we can look up to so admirable a height, and that the very eye is not tired in the way. But faith hath a visive faculty peculiar to itself; it is the evidence of things not seen, [Hebrews 11:1] while it "looks not at the things which are seen" - scil., with the eye of sense - "but at the things that are not seen," viz., but by the eye of faith, [2 Corinthians 4:18] whereby Moses "saw him who is invisible." [Hebrews 11:27] Let as many as would "behold the King in his beauty," study Moses’ optics, get a patriarch’s eye, "see Christ’s day afar off," as Abraham did, and "set him at their hand," as David. [Psalms 16:11] "So shall the King greatly desire their beauty," yea, set them at his right hand with the queen, his spouse, in gold of Ophir. [Psalms 45:9; Psalms 45:11] But then Christ must see their chain of obedience, as well as their eye of faith, even the whole chain of spiritual graces linked one to another. These are the daughters of faith, and good works, the products of them, are the fruits of faith. As chains adorn the neck, so do true virtues a true Christian; these as chains are visible and honourable testimonies of a lively faith, which works by love. These make the true Manlii Torquati {See Trapp on "Song of Solomon 1:10"}


Verse 10

Song of Solomon 4:10 How fair is thy love, my sister, [my] spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!

Ver. 10. How fair is thy love.] Heb., Loves, in the plural, noting not only their multitude, but excellence also, such as do far preponderate all carnal affections. These are said to be inexpressibly fair and lovely (noted by the exclamation and repetition here used, as if words were too weak to utter it), because (1.) It is undissembled - a man may paint fire, but he cannot paint heat; a man may dissemble actions in religion, but he cannot dissemble affections - (2.) It is rare, and in respect of common Christians it may be said, as in Ephesians 3:19, to "pass knowledge," since most have little of the life of it in their breasts, less of the light and lustre of it in their lives.

How much better is thy love than wine.] This same she had said of him in Song of Solomon 1:2. Now he returns it upon her, as is usual among lovers. He had confessed himself ravished with her love. [Song of Solomon 4:9] Now here he shows why he was so. He found her not lovely only, but loving; he had made her so, aud now takes singular delight and complacency in his own work, as once he did in his work of creation. He well perceived that he had not lost his love upon his Church, as David did upon his Absalom, as Paul did upon his Corinthians (of whom he complains, that the more he had loved, the less he was beloved), as Job upon his miserable comforters, whom he compares to the brooks of Tema, that in a moisture swell, in a drought fail. [Job 6:15-17] But Christ finds no such fickleness or false heartedhess in his beloved - he had love for love; and as he had been a sweet friend to her, so was she to him. Her love was better than the best wine (which yet is both costly and comfortable), yea, than all the delights that this life can afford; so much is implied by "wine" here, and so he is pleased to esteem it. Unworthy she of so kind acceptance of that little she can do this way, if she do not her utmost; if she cry not out with her son David, "I will love thee dearly," or entirely, with mine utmost bowels - with the same tenderness of affections as is in mothers towards the fruit of their bodies, so the Hebrew word signifies. [Psalms 18:1] And again, "I love" (so he abruptly expresseth himself by a passionate pang of love), "because the Lord hath heard the voice of my supplications," &c. [Psalms 116:1] He saw, and we may all see, so much cause to love the Lord, as that he must needs be a monster, and not a man, that loves not the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. It was a miracle that those worthies in Daniel should be in the midst of a fiery furnace, and not burn. It is no less that men should be in the midst of mercies on all hands, and not love Christ. It would be as great a wonder men should fail here, as for a river to run backwards. "I have drawn them by the bands of love, by the cords of a man," [Hosea 11:4] that is, with reasons and motives of love befitting the nature of a man, of a rational creature. But most men, alas! (and those that profess to be the children of the Church too), move like the river Araris, backward or forward, who can tell? (a) This is to give Christ vinegar for wine; this is as lukewarm water to his nice and nauseating stomach. [Revelation 3:16] There is a prophecy reported in Telesphorus, that Antichrist shall never overcome Venice, nor Paris, nor London. But we have a more certain word, and let us take heed, lest for our lukewarmness Christ spew us out of his mouth. What hath been the opinion and fear of some not inconsiderable divines, that Antichrist, before his abolition, shall once again overflow the whole face of the west, and suppress the whole Protestant Churches for a punishment of their loss of their first love, I pray Christ to avert.

And the smell of thine ointments, than all spice!] That is, Of thy sweet graces actuated and exercised. [Psalms 89:20 John 1:20; John 1:27] It was an aggravation of the fall of Saul, that he fell "as though he had not been anointed"; [2 Samuel 1:21] so for the saints to fall from their first love or from their own steadfastness. Such a dead fly will cause their once sweet ointments to send forth a stinking savour. [Ecclesiastes 10:1] Corruptio optimi est pessima. The best things are the worst things I corrupt.


Verse 11

Song of Solomon 4:11 Thy lips, O [my] spouse, drop [as] the honeycomb: honey and milk [are] under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments [is] like the smell of Lebanon.

Ver. 11. Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as an honeycomb.] Heb., Drop the honeycomb. So Christ calls the doctrines and prayers of the Church, her thanksgivings, confessions, conferences, &c., which are things most pleasing to Christ, and do much comfort and edify the faithful. That golden mouthed preacher did so please the people, that it was grown to a proverb, Better the sun shine not, than Chrysostom preach not. Bilney the martyr, a little before he was burned, entreated much on that text, [Isaiah 43:2] "Fear not; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee"; so that some of his friends present took such sweet fruit thereby, saith Mr Foxe, (a) that they caused the whole sentence to be fair written in tables, and some in their books; the comfort whereof in several of them was never taken away from them to their dying day. The same author saith (b) of Bishop Ridley, martyr, that he usually preached every Sunday and holiday, to whose sermons the people resorted, swarming about him like bees, and coveting the sweet juice of his heavenly doctrine. How pleasant and profitable to Latimer was the private conference he had with Bilney! and the like benefit had Ridley by Bradford, Luther by Staupicius, Galeacius by Peter Martyr, Junius by a countryman of his not far from Florence. Oο και απο γλωττης μελιτος γλυκιων ρεεν αυδη. (c)

Honey and milk are under thy tongue.] The language of Canaan is thy proper dialect; for Canaan was a land that flowed with milk and honey - with things both pleasant and profitable. Yea, I doubt not, saith an interpreter, but that under these terms the Holy Ghost meaneth fit food, as well for strong men as for weak ones in the Church. Milk most properly belongs to children; [1 Corinthians 3:2 Hebrews 5:12-13] and honey to them of more strength, as examples of the word and reason itself teacheth sufficiently, in Jonathan, [1 Samuel 14:27] and John Baptist. [Matthew 3:4] By these comparisons also may well be understood the good housekeeping that is in Christ’s Church. Honey and milk she hath ever at hand. And why hath he put these provisions under her tongue, but that she should look to lip feeding? [Proverbs 10:22] Let our words be "always with grace." [Colossians 4:6] Mel in ore, verba lactis, this becomes the Church’s children. Fel in corde, fraus in factis, is for those brats of fathomless perdition, that have adders’ poison under their lips, [Psalms 140:3] that being "in the gall of bitterness and bond of perdition," show themselves by their words and actions to be the sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and of the whore, whose lips also drop the honeycomb, but her end is bitter as wormwood. [Proverbs 5:3-4 Isaiah 57:3]

And the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.] Which was passing pleasant, by reason of the odoriferous and sweet smelling trees that grew there. Now what are these garments but the Church’s inward graces, say some; outward behaviour, say others, which is most gracious, amiable, and sweet, as far above all worldly grace as the smell of Lebanon is above the savour of common woods.


Verse 12

Song of Solomon 4:12 A garden inclosed [is] my sister, [my] spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

Ver. 12. A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse.] Fair and sweet he had before affirmed her; now, because

Lis est cum forma magna pudicitae.

The quarrel is with her great form of modesty. Fair women have many that wish them and lie in wait for them. Eι μεν καλην, εξεις κοινην, said he to his friend, dissuading him from marriage. (a) If she be fair, she will lightly be common. Christ therefore here commends her for her purity and chastity, and shows that she was so hedged and defenced by discipline and government, that none could come at her to hazard her virginity, no more than they could enter into a well walled garden. She openeth the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in; [Isaiah 26:2] those which subscribe with their hands unto the Lord; [Isaiah 44:5] that when he shall say, Who is on my side? who? do heartily avouch him for their God; [Deuteronomy 24:18] that fly to her as a cloud, and flock to her as a flight of doves. [Isaiah 60:8] As for the unclean, or anything that defileth, she hath her porters on purpose to keep them out; [2 Chronicles 23:19 Revelation 21:27] no dirty dog shall trample on her golden pavement. [Isaiah 5:2; Isaiah 35:8-10; Isaiah 62:8 1 Corinthians 5:11-13] It was not permitted to a dog to enter into the Acropolis or tower at Athens, for his heat in venery and for his ill favour, saith Plutarch. (b) Goats likewise, saith Varro, come not there, lest they should hurt the olive. Irish air will sooner brook a toad or snake to live therein than the true Church, if she may freely exercise her power, scandalous and heretical persons. Papists teach that the Catholic Church consisteth of good and bad; and that a man may be a true member thereof, though he have no inward virtues. (c) We confess that in all particular congregations there are hypocrites, as appears in the parable of the tares, of the net, &c. But yet we deny that the holy Catholic Church mentioned in the creed hath a mixture of good and bad, since she is the chaste spouse of Jesus Christ, who owneth no wicked man or hypocrite in her; for how should he love such, unless it be with a common, not with a conjugal, love, so as he loved that tame young man, [Mark 10:21] whom he pitied as a self-deceiver, like as we pity moderate and devout Papists. In Christ’s garden, as there is no ground but what is specially good, set apart for the purpose, fit for him to sit and walk in for his recreation - my well beloved hath his orchard in a very fruitful hill, [Isaiah 5:1] in a cornucopia country - so it is furnished and filled with the choicest fruits and flowers, plants of renown, and pleasant trees, yielding fruit according to their kind. And though all cannot bear cinnamon and balsam, yet as in Spain there is said to be nihil infructuosum, nihil sterile, nothing barren or unfruitful, so all that "are planted in the house of the Lord, do flourish in the courts of our God; they do still bring forth fruit in old age, they are fat and flourishing"; [Psalms 92:13-14] they are both actuosi and fructuosi, "neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." [2 Peter 1:8] And indeed how can it be otherwise with God’s garden, whenas he "himself keeps it, and watereth it every moment; lest any hurt it, he keepeth it night and day." [Isaiah 27:3] God fenceth it with his omnipotent arm, keepeth it from the wild boar and other devoratory evils, as Tertullian phraseth it, better than the garden of Eden was kept with the flaming sword. And whereas the Church may seem to lie open to all incursions, this verse shows that it hath a well within it and a wall without it. Yea, himself is a "wall of fire round about Jerusalem," [Zechariah 2:5] in allusion to the custom of those Eastern countries where, by reason of the great number of wild beasts, shepherds and travellers guard themselves by making great fires round about their night lodgings to keep off their approach.

A spring shut up, a fountain sealed.] A preciously purling current of grace, "a spring of water whose waters fail not," [Isaiah 58:11] and whereof "whosoever drinketh shall never thirst" [John 4:14] For which end it is carefully shut up, nay, sealed, that the "stranger meddle not with his joy," and that the envious man stop not up this wellspring with earth, as the Philistines served Isaac; or cast bags of poison into it, as the spiteful Jews did once in this kingdom, and were therefore banished hence for ever. It was wittily said of Polydor Virgil, Regnum Angliae, regnum Dei, the kingdom of England is the kingdom of God. He meant because God seemed to take special care of it, as having walled it about with the ocean, and watered it with the upper and nether springs, like that land which Caleb gave his daughter. Hence it was called Albion, quasi Olbion, the happy country, whose valleys are like Eden, saith our English chronicler, (d) whose hills are as Lebanon, whose springs are as Pisgah, whose rivers are as Jordan, whose walls are the ocean, and whose defence is the Lord Jehovah. Foreign writers have termed our country "the granary of the western world," "the fortunate island," "the paradise of pleasure, and garden of God." All this may much more fitly be applied to the Catholic Church. If Judea were called the "glorious land" because of God’s presence there, [Daniel 11:16] and an "island," though part of the continent, because surrounded with God’s powerful protection, [Isaiah 20:6] and the commonwealth of Israel Yεοκρατεια by Josephus, a God-like polity, what shall we think of that "Jerusalem above, that is the mother of us all"; of those sealed saints; [Revelation 7:3-4] this "sealed fountain," sealed up as to keep it filth free, that no camels stir up the mud, nor great he-goats foul it with their feet, [Ezekiel 34:18] so to denote an excellence - as in Isaiah 28:25, hordeum signatum is put for excellent barley - and a propriety, "who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts," [2 Corinthians 1:22] like as the merchant sets his seal upon his goods, and marks them for his own?


Verse 13

Song of Solomon 4:13 Thy plants [are] an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,

Ver. 13. Thy plants are as an orchard of pomegranates.] By plants are to be understood either particular churches or several saints. These are those shoots or sprouts (a) that spread abroad God’s paradise - that the word here used, and nowhere else in Scripture, save Ecclesiastes 2:5, Nehemiah 2:8 so called for the curious variety and excellence of all sorts of precious and pleasant trees there growing; some for profit, as pomegranates, which are known to be healthful and preservative, some for pleasure; and these again were either more common and copious in Jewry, as camphires and spikenards - plurals both in the original, for the plenty of them in those parts - or more rare and costly, as those mentioned in the next verse.


Verse 14

Song of Solomon 4:14 Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:

Ver. 14. Nard.] Called in Mark 14:3; Joh_12:3, "spikenard very costly," or rather, as some learned men will have it, nard of Opis, a town near Babylon, where grew the most precious spikenard, and whence it was transported to other places. (a) Of this plant, see Pliny, lib. xii. c. 11; as of cypress or camphire, lib. xii. c. 14; of saffron, lib. xii. c. 15; of calamus, lib. xii. c. 23; of cinnamon and myrrh, lib. xii. c. 23, 19. For pomegranates, {See Trapp on "Song of Solomon 4:3"} for camphire, {See Trapp on "Song of Solomon 1:14"} Saffron is in the Hebrew carcom: Shindler saith it should be read carcos with samech; and so it will exactly agree with κροκος, crocus, the one likely coming of the other. Our English comes of the Arabic zaphran, so called by the yellow colour. Calamus or sweet cane is a precious aromatical reed bought and brought out of far countries, as appeareth by Jeremiah 6:20, Isaiah 43:24. Cinnamon was very rare in Galen’s time, and hard to be found, except in princes’ storehouses. (b) Pliny reports that a pound of cinnamon was worth a thousand denarii, - that is, 150 crowns of our money. As for those trees of frankincense, myrrh, and aloes, &c., Brightman thinks they betoken tall and eminent Christians, as calamus and cinnamon, shrubs of two cubits high or thereabouts, do Christians of a middle stature; and nard and saffron, herbs that scarce lift up themselves above the ground, represent those of a lower rank and lesser degree of holiness; which yet have all of them their place in God’s garden, and their several sweetnesses; the Spirit of grace being magnus in magnis, nec parvus in minimis, as Augustine hath it, - Great in God’s greater children, and not little in the least. And though there be diversity of gifts, yet are they from one Spirit, as the diverse smells of pleasant fruits and chief spices are from the same influence, and the divers sounds in the organs from the same breath. The Spirit of grace are those two golden pipes, [Zechariah 4:12] through the which the two olive branches empty out of themselves the golden oils of all precious graces into the candlestick, the Church. Hence grace is called the "fruit of the Spirit"; [Galatians 5:22] yea, "Spirit"; [Galatians 4:17] and albeit, "as the man is, so is his strength," as they said to Gideon; and God hath his children of all sizes, - babes, young men, old men; [1 John 2:13] yet Philadelphia, with her "little strength," may "keep Christ’s word, and not deny his name" (while those churches that had more strength are not so commended), and in "that little strength I have set open a door for thee," even the door of heaven, wide enough so that none could shut it. [Revelation 3:8] Why, then, should any "despise the day of small things?" God, who "hath begun a good work, his hands shall finish it: and he that hath laid the foundation, shall in due time bring forth the topstone thereof with shouting, crying, Grace, grace unto it." [Zechariah 4:7-10] An infant of days shall proceed from degree to degree, till he be like the Ancient of days; and "those that be planted in the house of the Lord, shall once flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age: they shall be fat and flourishing." [Psalms 92:13-14] The seeds of the cypress tree are so very small, that they can scarce be seen with eyes, et tamen in iis tanta est arbor, tamque procera, (c) and yet in some one of them is potentially so large and so tall a tree. Despair not therefore of further measures, but aspire still to perfection. [Philippians 3:12-13 Hebrews 5:14] The blessing on man in the first creation was, "increase and multiply," in the second, "grow in grace." [Isaiah 61:3; Isaiah 61:11] And remember that growth is not always to be measured by joy, and other accessory graces. These sweet blooms may fall off when fruit comes on, &c.


Verse 15

Song of Solomon 4:15 A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.

Ver. 15. A fountain of gardens, a well, &c.] Or, O fountain of the gardens, &c. For they do best in mine opinion that make this to be the Church’s speech to Christ, grounded upon his former commendation of her. And it is as if she should say, Callest thou me, Lord, a garden enclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed? True it is I am the garden which thine own right band hath planted, walled, watered, &c., but for all that I am or have, the entire praise belongs to thee alone. All my plenty of spiritual graces, all my perennity of spiritual comforts, all my pleasance and sweetness, is derived from thee, no otherwise than the streams of Jordan are from Mount Lebanon; "all my springs are in thee," as in their well head. Certam est nos facere quod facimus, sed ille facit, ut faciamus, saith Augustine. True it is that we do what we do; but it is as true that Christ maketh us to do what we do; for "without him we can do nothing"; [John 15:5] "in him is our fruit found": [Hosea 14:8] it is he that "works all our works in us." [Isaiah 26:12] Hence it is that the Church is nowhere in all this book described by the beauty of her hands or fingers, because he alone doth all for her. The Church of Rome, that will needs hammer out her own happiness (like the spider climbing up by a thread of her own weaving, and boasting with her in the emblem, Mihi soli debeo I own to myself alone.), shows thereby of what spirit she is. That wretched monk died blasphemously who said, Redde mihi aeternam vitam quam debes, Pay me heaven which thou owest me. And what an arrogant speech was that of Vega, Caelum gratis non accipiam, I will not have heaven of free cost? Haec ego feci, haec ego feci, shows men to be no better than mere faeces, said Luther wittily. This I have done, and that I have done, speaks them dregs, and dogs that shall stand without doors. [Revelation 22:15] Hear a child of our Church speaking thus of himself: (a)

Fabricius studuit bene de pietate mereri;

Sed quicquid potuit, gloria, Christe, tua est. ”

This was matrissare, to be like his mother, whose motto hath ever been, Non nobis Domine, - "Not unto us, Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the praise." [Psalms 115:1] If I be thy garden, thou art my fountain, from whence, unless I be continually watered, all will be soon withered, and I shall be as one that inhabiteth the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land, and not inhabited. [Jeremiah 17:6] In the island of St Thomas (on the back side of Africa), in the midst of it is a hill, and over that a continual cloud, wherewith the whole island is watered, (b) Such is the Lord Christ to his Church, [Hosea 14:5-7] which therefore, as Gideon’s fleece, must needs be wet and moist, when all the earth besides is dry and desolate, as the mountains of Gilboa, or as St David’s in Wales, which is said to be a place neither pleasant, fertile, nor safe.

A well of living.] Or, A pit of living and life giving waters, (c) Christus et coelum non patiuntur hyperbolen, A man cannot say too much in commendation of Christ and his kingdom; hence the Church here cannot satisfy herself. A fountain she calls him, a well, a stream, such as "makes glad the city of God," even that "pure river of the water of life proceeding out of God’s throne." [Revelation 22:1 Ezekiel 47:6] Gregory makes this fountain to be the Scriptures, which, he saith, are like both to a fountain and to a pit. Some things in them are plain and open, and may be compared to a spring which runs in an open and eminent place. Other things therein are dark and deep, and like unto a pit, that a man must dive into, and draw out with hard labour.

And streams from Lebanon.] Watering the whole Church (as Jordan did the Holy Land), and tasting no doubt of that sweetness mentioned before; [Song of Solomon 4:11] even as we see by experience, saith one, that the waters that come out of the hills of some of the islands of Molucca taste of the cinnamon, cloves, &c., that grow there.


Verse 16

Song of Solomon 4:16 Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, [that] the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.

Ver. 16. Awake, O north wind; come, thou south, &c.] These winds she supposeth to be asleep, because they blew not. Rupertus calls the winds Mundi scopas, the world’s besoms, because God makes use of them to sweep out his large house, and to purge the air. The Spirit of God first purgeth, and then watereth the faithful, whom the Church here calleth her garden, though, indeed it be Christ’s, by reason of the nigh conjunction that is between him and her, [Ephesians 5:30] so that they both make but one mystical Christ. [1 Corinthians 12:12] Now, we all know that to a complete garden are necessary (1.) That it be well enclosed; (2.) Well planted; (3.) Well watered; (4.) That it be amoena caeli aspiratione perflabilis, well situated for wind and air; (5.) That it be fruitful and profitable. The Church’s garden hath every one of these good properties, as appears here; and for the fourth, Christ is all the diverse winds, both cold and hot, moist and dry, binding and opening, north and south, fit for every season. What wind soever blows it blows good to the Church, for Christ speaks to them, as David did to his captains, "Do this young man no hurt; handle him gently for my sake." The sun may not smite him by day, nor the moon by night. [Psalms 121:6] The nipping north of adversity, the cherishing south wind of prosperity, must both make for him.

That the spices thereof may flow out.] That I may be some way serviceable to God and profitable to men. She knew that in God’s account to be idle is all one as to be evil, [Matthew 25:26] to be unthankful is to be wicked. [Luke 6:35] Paulum sepultae distat inertiae, celata virtus, (a) could one poet say; and another,

Vile latens virtus: quid enim submersa tenebris

Proderit, obscuro veluti sub remige puppis,

Vel lyra quae reticet, vel qui non tenditur arcus? ”{b}

Christ had made his Church a garden of sweetest sweets. Her desire is therefore that her fruits being rightly ripened, her graces greatened and made mature by the benign breath of the Holy Ghost (compared here, as elsewhere, to the several winds), their sweetness may be dispread, and conveyed to the nostrils of such as have "their senses habitually exercised to discern good and evil." [Hebrews 5:14] As for others, their heads are so stuffed with the stenches of the world, that great muck hill, and themselves so choked up with earth, as Core and his complices were, that they cannot resent or savour the things of the Spirit; but, as vultures, they hunt after carrion carcases, and as tigers they are enraged with the sweet smell of the Church’s spices.

Let my beloved come and eat his pleasant fruits.] For "who plants a vineyard or orchard, and eats not of the fruit thereof?" [1 Corinthians 9:7] The garden is Christ’s: the precious graces of his Spirit and all acts of grace, those pleasant fruits are all his. He alone is the true proprietary: "for of him, and through him, and to him are all things." [Romans 11:36] Of him, as the efficient cause; through him, as the administering cause; and to him as the final cause. Well therefore may it follow, "to whom be glory for ever." Christ counts the fruits that we bear to be ours, because the judgment and resolution of will whereby we bear them is ours. This he doth to encourage us. But because the grace whereby we judge, will, and work aright, comes from Christ, ascribe we all to him, as the Church doth in the former verse; and presenting him with the best fruits, as they did Joseph, [Genesis 43:11] say as David, and after him Justinian, (c) τα σα εκ των σων σοι προσφερομεν, "Of thine own have we given thee." [1 Chronicles 29:14]

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 4:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/song-of-solomon-4.html. 1865-1868.

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