Verses 1–7

Here is, I. A large and particular account of the beauties of the church, and of gracious souls on whom the image of God is renewed, consisting in the beauty of holiness. In general, he that is a competent judge of beauty, whose judgment, we are sure, is according to truth, and what all must subscribe to, he has said, Behold, thou art fair. She had commended him, and called all about her to take notice of his glories; and hereby she recommends herself to him, gains his favour, and, in return for her respects, he calls to all about him to take notice of her graces. Those that honour Christ he will honour, 1 Sam. 2:30.

1. He does not flatter her, nor design hereby either to make her proud of herself or to court her praises of him; but, (1.) It is to encourage her under her present dejections. Whatever others thought of her, she was amiable in his eyes. (2.) It is to teach her what to value herself upon, not any external advantages (which would add nothing to her, and the want of which would deprive her of nothing that was really excellent), but upon the comeliness of grace which he had put upon her. (3.) It is to invite others to think well of her too, and to join themselves to her: “Thou art my love, thou lovest me and art beloved of me, and therefore thou art fair.” All the beauty of the saints is derived from him, and they shine by reflecting his light; it is the beauty of the Lord our God that is upon us, Ps. 90:17. She was espoused to him, and that made her beautiful. Uxor fulget radiis maritiThe spouse shines in her husband’s rays. It it repeated, Thou art fair, and again, Thou art fair, denoting not only the certainty of it, but the pleasure he took in speaking of it.

2. As to the representation here made of the beauty of the church, the images are certainly very bright, the shades are strong, and the comparisons bold, not proper indeed to represent any external beauty, for they were not designed to do so, but the beauty of holiness, the new man, the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible. Seven particulars are specified, a number of perfection, for the church is enriched with manifold graces by the seven spirits that are before the throne, Rev. 1:4; 1 Cor. 1:5, 7.

(1.) Her eyes. A good eye contributes much to a beauty: Thou hast doves’ eyes, clear and chaste, and often cast up towards heaven. It is not the eagle’s eye, that can face the sun, but the dove’s eye, a humble, modest, mournful eye, that is the praise of those whom Christ loves. Ministers are the church’s eyes (Isa. 52:8; thy watchmen shall see eye to eye); they must be like doves’ eyes, harmless and inoffensive (Matt. 10:16), having their conversation in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity. Wisdom and knowledge are the eyes of the new man; they must be clear, but not haughty, not exercised in things too high for us. When our aims and intentions are sincere and honest, then we have doves’ eyes, when we look not unto idols (Ezek. 18:6), but have our eyes ever towards the Lord, Ps. 25:15. The doves’ eyes are within the locks, which area as a shade upon them, so that, [1.] They cannot fully see. As long as we are here in this world we know but in part, for a hair hangs in our eyes; we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness; death will shortly cut those locks, and then we shall see all things clearly. [2.] They cannot be fully seen, but as the stars through the thin clouds. Some make it to intimate the bashfulness of her looks; she suffers not her eyes to wander, but limits them with her locks.

(2.) Her hair; it is compared to a flock of goats, which looked white, and were, on the top of the mountains, like a fine head of hair; and the sight was more pleasant to the spectator because the goats have not only gravity from their beards, but they are comely in going (Prov. 30:29), but it was most pleasant of all to the owner, much of whose riches consisted in his flocks. Christ puts a value upon that in the church, and in believers, which others make no more account of than of their hair. He told his disciples that the very hairs of their head were all numbered, as carefully as men number their flocks (Matt. 10:30), and that not a hair of their head should perish, Luke 21:18. Some by the hair here understand the outward conversation of a believer, which ought to be comely, and decent, and agreeable to the holiness of the heart. The apostle opposes good works, such as become the professors of godliness, to the plaiting of the hair, 1 Tim. 2:9, 10. Mary Magdalen’s hair was beautiful when she wiped the feet of Christ with it.

(3.) Her teeth, Song 4:2. Ministers are the church’s teeth; like nurses, they chew the meat for the babes of Christ. The Chaldee paraphrase applies it to the priests and Levites, who fed upon the sacrifices as the representatives of the people. Faith, by which we feed upon Christ, meditation, by which we ruminate on the word and chew the cud upon what we have heard, in order to the digesting of it, are the teeth of the new man. These are here compared to a flock of sheep. Christ called his disciples and ministers a little flock. It is the praise of teeth to be even, to be white, and kept clean, like sheep from the washing, and to be firm and well fixed in the gums, and not like sheep that cast their young; for so the word signifies which we translate barren. It is the praise of ministers to be even in mutual love and concord, to be pure and clean from all moral pollutions, and to be fruitful, bringing forth souls to Christ, and nursing his lambs.

(4.) Her lips; these are compared to a thread of scarlet, Song 4:3. Red lips are comely, and a sign of health, as the paleness of the lips is a sign of faintness and weakness; her lips were the colour of scarlet, but thin lips, like a thread of scarlet. The next words explain it: Thy speech is comely, always with grace, good, and to the use of edifying, which adds much to the beauty of a Christian. When we praise God with our lips, and with the mouth make confession of him to salvation, then they are as a thread of scarlet. All our good works and good words must be washed in the blood of Christ, dyed like the scarlet thread, and then, and not till then, they are acceptable to God. The Chaldee applies it to the chief priest, and his prayers for Israel on the day of atonement.

(5.) Her temples, or cheeks, which are here compared to a piece of a pomegranate, a fruit which, when cut in two, has rich veins or specks in it, like a blush in the face. Humility and modesty, blushing to lift up our faces before God, blushing at the remembrance of sin and in a sense of our unworthiness of the honour put upon us, will beautify us very much in the eyes of Christ. The blushes of Christ’s bride are within her locks, which intimates (says Mr. Durham) that she blushes when no other sees, and for that which none sees but God and conscience; also that she seeks not to proclaim her humility, but modestly covers that too; yet the evidences of all these, in a tender walk, appear and are comely.

(6.) Her neck; this is here compared to the tower of David, Song 4:4. This is generally applied to the grace of faith, by which we are united to Christ, as the body is united to the head by the neck; this is like the tower of David, furnishing us with weapons of war, especially bucklers and shields, as the soldiers were supplied with them out of that tower, for faith is our shield (Eph. 6:16): those that have it never want a buckler, for God will compass them with his favour as with a shield. When this neck is like a tower, straight, and stately, and strong, a Christian goes on in his way, and works with courage and magnanimity, and does not hang a drooping head, and he does when faith fails. Some make the shields of the mighty men, that are here said to hang up in the tower of David, to be the monuments of the valour of David’s worthies. Their shields were preserved, to keep in remembrance them and their heroic acts, intimating that it is a great encouragement to the saints to hold up their heads, to see what great things the saints in all ages have accomplished and won by faith. In Heb. 11:1-40 we have the shields of the mighty men hung up, the exploits of believers and the trophies of their victories.

(7.) Her breasts; these are like two young roes that are twins, Song 4:5. The church’s breasts are both for ornament (Ezek. 16:7) and for use; they are the breasts of her consolation (Isa. 66:11), as she is said to suck the breasts of kings, Isa. 60:16. Some apply these to the two Testaments; others to the two sacraments, the seals of the covenant of grace; others to ministers, who are to be spiritual nurses to the children of God and to give out to them the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby, and, in order to that, are themselves to feed among the lilies where Christ feeds (Song 2:16), that they may be to the babes of the church as full breasts. Or the breasts of a believer are his love to Christ, which he is pleased with, as a tender husband is with the affections of his wife, who is therefore said to be to him as the loving hind and the pleasant roe, because her breasts satisfy him at all times, Prov. 5:19. This includes also his edifying others and communicating grace to them, which adds much to a Christian’s beauty.

II. The bridegroom’s resolution hereupon to retire to the mountain of myrrh (Song 4:6) and there to make his residence. This mountain of myrrh is supposed to signify Mount Moriah, on which the temple was built, where incense was daily burnt to the honour of God. Christ was so pleased with the beauty of his church that he chose this to be his rest for ever; here he will dwell till the day break and the shadows flee away. Christ’s parting promise to his disciples, as the representatives of the church, answer to this: Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Where the ordinances of God are duly administered there Christ will be, and there we must meet him at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Some make these to be the words of the spouse, either modestly ashamed of the praises given her, and willing to get out of the hearing of them, or desirous to be constant to the holy hill, not doubting but there to find suitable and sufficient succour and relief in all her straits, and there to cast anchor, and wish for the day, which, at the time appointed, would break and the shadows flee away. The holy hill (as some observe) is here called both a mountain of myrrh, which is bitter, and a hill of frankincense, which is sweet, for there we have occasion both to mourn and rejoice; repentance is a bitter sweet. But in heaven it will be all frankincense, and no myrrh. Prayer is compared to incense, and Christ will meet his praying people and will bless them.

III. His repeated commendation of the beauty of the spouse (Song 4:7): Thou art all fair, my love. He had said (Song 4:1), Thou art fair; but here he goes further, and, in review of the particulars, as of those of the creation, he pronounces all very good: “Thou art all fair, my love; thou art all over beautiful, and there is nothing amiss in thee, and thou hast all beauties in thee; thou art sanctified wholly in every part; all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17); there is not only a new face and a new name, but a new man, a new nature; there is no spot in thee, as far as thou art renewed.” The spiritual sacrifices must be without blemish. There is no spot but such as is often the spot of God’s children, none of the leopard’s spots. The church, when Christ shall present it to himself a glorious church, will be altogether without spot or wrinkle, Eph. 5:27.