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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–5
Verses 1–5

Some make Shoshannim, in the title, to signify an instrument of six strings; others take it in its primitive signification for lilies or roses, which probably were strewed, with other flowers, at nuptial solemnities; and then it is easily applicable to Christ who calls himself the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys, Song 2:1. It is a song of loves, concerning the holy love that is between Christ and his church. It is a song of the well-beloved, the virgins, the companions of the bride (Ps. 45:14), prepared to be sung by them. The virgin-company that attend the Lamb on Mount Zion are said to sing a new song, Rev. 14:3, 4.

I. The preface (Ps. 45:1) speaks, 1. The dignity of the subject. It is a good matter, and it is a pity that such a moving art as poetry should every be employed about a bad matter. It is touching the King, King Jesus, and his kingdom and government. Note, Those that speak of Christ speak of a good matter, no subject so noble, so copious, so fruitful, so profitable, and so well-becoming us; it is a shame that this good matter is not more the matter of our discourse. 2. The excellency of the management. This song was a confession with the mouth of faith in the heart concerning Christ and his church. (1.) The matter was well digested, as it well deserved: My heart is inditing it, which perhaps is meant of that Spirit of prophecy that dictated the psalm to David, that Spirit of Christ which was in the prophets, 1 Pet. 1:11. But it is applicable to his devout meditations and affections in his heart, out of the abundance of which his mouth spoke. Things concerning Christ ought to be thought of by us with all possible seriousness, with fixedness of thought and a fire of holy love, especially when we are to speak of those things. We then speak best of Christ and divine things when we speak from the heart that which has warmed and affected us; and we should never be rash in speaking of the things of Christ, but weigh well beforehand what we have to say, lest we speak amiss. See Eccl. 5:2. (2.) It was well expressed: I will speak of the things which I have made. He would express himself, [1.] With all possible clearness, as one that did himself understand and was affected with the things he spoke of. Not, “I will speak the things I have heard from others,” that is speaking by rote; but, “the things which I have myself studied.” Note, What God has wrought in our souls, as well as what he has wrought for them, we must declare to others, Ps. 66:16. [2.] With all possible cheerfulness, freedom, and fluency: “My tongue is as the pen of a ready writer, guided by my heart in every word as the pen is by the hand.” We call the prophets the penmen of scripture, whereas really they were but the pen. The tongue of the most subtle disputant, and the most eloquent orator, is but the pen with which God writes what he pleases. Why should we quarrel with the pen if bitter things be written against us, or idolize the pen if it write in our favour? David not only spoke what he thought of Christ, but wrote it, that it might spread the further and last the longer. His tongue was as the pen of a ready writer, that lets nothing slip. When the heart is inditing a good matter it is a pity but the tongue should be as the pen of a ready writer, to leave it upon record.

II. In these verses the Lord Jesus is represented,

1. As most beautiful and amiable in himself. It is a marriage-song; and therefore the transcendent excellencies of Christ are represented by the beauty of the royal bridegroom (Ps. 45:2): Thou art fairer than the children of men, than any of them. He proposed (Ps. 45:1) to speak of the King, but immediately directs his speech to him. Those that have an admiration and affection for Christ love to go to him and tell him so. Thus we must profess our faith, that we see his beauty, and our love, that we are pleased with it: Thou are fair, thou art fairer than the children of men. Note, Jesus Christ is in himself, and in the eyes of all believers, more amiable and lovely than the children of men. The beauties of the Lord Jesus, as God, as Mediator, far surpass those of human nature in general and those which the most amiable and excellent of the children of men are endowed with; there is more in Christ to engage our love than there is or can be in any creature. Our beloved is more than another beloved. The beauties of this lower world, and its charms, are in danger of drawing away our hearts from Christ, and therefore we are concerned to understand how much he excels them all, and how much more worthy he is of our love.

2. As the great favourite of heaven. He is fairer than the children of men, for God has done more for him than for any of the children of men, and all his kindness to the children of men is for his sake, and passes through his hands, through his mouth. (1.) He has grace, and he has it for us; Grace is poured into thy lips. By his word, his promise, his gospel, the good-will of God is made known to us and the good work of God is begun and carried on in us. He received all grace from God, all the endowments that were requisite to qualify him for his work and office as Mediator, that from his fulness we might receive, John 1:16. It was not only poured into his heart, for his own strength and encouragement, but poured into his lips, that by the words of his mouth in general, and the kisses of his mouth to particular believers, he might communicate both holiness and comfort. From this grace poured into his lips proceeded those gracious words which all admired, Luke 4:22. The gospel of grace is poured into his lips; for it began to be spoken by the Lord, and from him we receive it. He has the words of eternal life. The spirit of prophecy is put into thy lips; so the Chaldee. (2.) He has the blessing, and he has it for us. “Therefore, because thou art the great trustee of divine grace for the use and benefit of the children of men, therefore God has blessed thee for ever, has made thee an everlasting blessing, so as that in thee all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” Where God gives his grace he will give his blessing. We are blessed with spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, Eph. 1:3.

3. As victorious over all his enemies. The royal bridegroom is a man of war, and his nuptials do not excuse him from the field of battle (as was allowed by the law, Deut. 24:5); nay, they bring him to the field of battle, for he is to rescue his spouse by dint of sword out of her captivity, to conquer her, and to conquer for her, and then to marry her. Now we have here,

(1.) His preparations for war (Ps. 45:3): Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O Most Mighty! The word of God is the sword of the Spirit. By the promises of that word, and the grace contained in those promises, souls are made willing to submit to Jesus Christ and become his loyal subjects; by the threatenings of that word, and the judgments executed according to them, those that stand it out against Christ will, in due time, be brought down and ruined. By the gospel of Christ many Jews and Gentiles were converted, and, at length, the Jewish nation was destroyed, according to the predictions of it, for their implacable enmity to it; and paganism was quite abolished. The sword here girt on Christ’s thigh is the same which is said to proceed out of his mouth, Rev. 19:15. When the gospel was sent fort to be preached to all nations, then our Redeemer girded his sword upon his thigh.

(2.) His expedition to this holy war: He goes forth with his glory and his majesty, as a great king takes the field with abundance of pomp and magnificence—his sword, his glory, and majesty. In his gospel he appears transcendently great and excellent, bright and blessed, in the honour and majesty which the Father had laid upon him. Christ, both in his person and in his gospel, had nothing of external glory or majesty, nothing to charm men (for he had no form nor comeliness), nothing to awe men, for he took upon him the form of a servant; it was all spiritual glory, spiritual majesty. There is so much grace, and therefore glory, in that word, He that believes shall be saved, so much terror, and therefore majesty, in that word, He that believes shall not be damned, that we may well say, in the chariot of that gospel, which these words are the sum of, the Redeemer rides forth in glory and majesty. In thy majesty ride prosperously, Ps. 45:4. Prosper thou; ride thou. This speaks the promise of his Father, that he should prosper according to the good pleasure of the Lord, that he should divide the spoil with the strong, in recompence of his sufferings. Those cannot but prosper to whom God says, Prosper, Isa. 52:10-12. And it denotes the good wishes of his friends, praying that he may prosper in the conversion of souls to him, and the destruction of all the powers of darkness that rebel against him. “Thy kingdom come; Go on and prosper.”

(3.) The glorious cause in which he is engaged—because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness, which were, in a manner, sunk and lost among men, and which Christ came to retrieve and rescue. [1.] The gospel itself is truth, meekness, and righteousness; it commands by the power of truth and righteousness; for Christianity has these, incontestably, on its side, and yet it is to be promoted by meekness and gentleness, 1 Cor. 4:12, 13; 2 Tim. 2:25. [2.] Christ appears in it in his truth, meekness, and righteousness, and these are his glory and majesty, and because of these he shall prosper. Men are brought to believe on him because he is true, to learn of him because he is meek, Matt. 11:29 (the gentleness of Christ is of mighty force, 2 Cor. 10:1), and to submit to him because he is righteous and rules with equity. [3.] The gospel, as far as it prevails with men, sets up in their hearts truth, meekness, and righteousness, rectifies their mistakes by the light of truth, controls their passions by the power of meekness, and governs their hearts and lives by the laws of righteousness. Christ came, by setting up his kingdom among men, to restore those glories to a degenerate world, and to maintain the cause of those just and rightful rulers under him that by error, malice, and iniquity, had been deposed.

(4.) The success of his expedition: “Thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things; thou shalt experience a wonderful divine power going along with thy gospel, to make it victorious, and the effects of it will be terrible things.” [1.] In order to the conversion and reduction of souls to him, there are terrible things to be done; the heart must be pricked, conscience must be startled, and the terrors of the Lord must make way for his consolations. This is done by the right hand of Christ. The Comforter shall continue, John 16:8. [2.] In the conquest of the gates of hell and its supporters, in the destruction of Judaism and Paganism, terrible things will be done, which will make men’s hearts fail them for fear (Luke 21:26) and great men and chief captains call to the rocks and mountains to fall on them, Rev. 6:15. The next verse describes these terrible things (Ps. 45:5): Thy arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies. First, Those that were by nature enemies are thus wounded, in order to their being subdued and reconciled. Convictions are like the arrows of the bow, which are sharp in the heart on which they fasten, and bring people to fall under Christ, in subjection to his laws and government. Those that thus fall on this stone shall by broken, Matt. 21:44. Secondly, Those that persist in their enmity are thus wounded, in order to their being ruined. The arrows of God’s terrors are sharp in their hearts, whereby they shall fall under him, so as to be made his footstool, Ps. 110:1. Those that would not have him to reign over them shall be brought forth and slain before him (Luke 19:27); those that would not submit to his golden sceptre shall be broken to pieces by his iron rod.