|THE EXCELLENCIES OF CHRIST
HIS GLORY REIGNS
Dec 4 2009 08:00AM
To strengthen our hearts in the resignation mentioned of ourselves to the Lord Christ as our husband, as also to make
way for the stirring of us up to those consequential conjugal affections of which mention shall afterward be made, I shall
turn aside to a more full description of some of the personal excellencies of the Lord Christ, by which the hearts of his
saints are indeed endeared to him.
In 'The Lord our Righteousness,' then, may these ensuing things be considered; which are exceeding suitable to prevail
upon our hearts to give up themselves to be wholly his:
DESIRABLE IN HIS DEITY AND GLORY
He is exceeding and desirable in his Deity, and the glory thereof. He is 'Jehovah our Righteousness' (Jeremiah 23:6).
In the rejoicing of Zion at his coming to her, this is the bottom, 'Behold your God!' (Isaiah 40:9). 'We have seen his
glory,' says the apostle. What glory is that? The glory of the only-begotten Son of God' (John 1:14). The choicest
saints have been afraid and amazed at the beauty of an angel; and the stoutest sinners have trembled at the glory of
one of those creatures in low appearance, representing but the back parts of their glory, who yet themselves, in their
highest advancement, do cover their faces at the presence of our Beloved, as conscious to themselves of their utter
disability to bear the rays of his glory (Isaiah 6:2; John 12:39-41). He is 'the fellow the Lord of hosts' (Zechariah 13:7).
And though he once appeared in the form of a servant, yet then 'he thought it not robbery to be equal with God'
(Philippians 2:6). In the glory of this majesty he dwells in light inaccessible. We 'cannot by searching find out the
Almighty to perfection: it is as high as heaven; what can we do? Deeper than hell; what can we know? The measure
thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea' (Job 11:7-9).
If any one should ask, now, with them in the Song of Solomon, what is in the Lord Jesus, our beloved, more than in
other beloveds, that should make him so desirable, and amiable, and worthy of acceptance? What is he more than
others? I ask, what is a king more than a beggar? Much every way. Alas! this is nothing; they were born alike, must
die alike, and after that is the judgement. What is an angel more than a worm? A worm is a creature, an angel is no
more; he has made the one to creep in the earth - made also the other to dwell in heaven. There is still a proportion
between these, they agree in something; but what are all the nothings of the world to the God infinitely blessed for
evermore? Shall the dust of the balance, or the drop of the bucket be laid in the scale against him? This is he of whom
the sinners in Zion are afraid, and amongst us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?' I might now give you a glimpse of
his excellency in many of those properties and attributes by which he discovers himself to the faith of poor sinners; but
as he that goes into a garden where there are innumerable flowers in great variety, gathers not all he sees, but crops
here and there one, and another, I shall endeavour to open a door, and give an inlet into the infinite excellency of the
graces of the Lord Jesus, as he is 'God blessed for evermore' - presenting the reader with one or two instances, leaving
him to gather for his own use what farther he pleases.
The endless, bottomless, boundless grace and compassion that is in him who is thus our husband, as he is the God of
Zion. It is not the grace of a creature, nor all the grace that can possibly at once dwell in a created nature, that will
serve our turn. We are too indigent to be suited with such a supply. There was a fulness of grace in the human nature
of Christ - he received not 'the Spirit by measure' (John 3:34); a fulness like that of light in the sun, or of water in the
sea (I speak not in respect of communication, but sufficiency); a fulness incomparably above the measure of angels: yet
it was not properly an infinite fulness - it was a created, and therefore a limited fulness. If it could be conceived as
separated from the Deity, surely so many thirsty, guilty souls, as every day drink deep and large draughts of grace and
mercy from him, would (if I may so speak) sink him to the very bottom; nay, it could afford no supply at all, but only in a
moral way. But when the conduit of his humanity is inseparably united to the infinite, inexhaustible fountain of the Deity,
who can look into the depths thereof? If, now, there be grace enough for sinners in an all-sufficient God, it is in Christ;
and, indeed, in any other there cannot be enough. The Lord gives this reason for the peace and confidence of sinners,
'You shall not be ashamed, neither be you confounded; for you shall not be put to shame' (Isaiah 54:4-5). But how shall
this be? So much sin, and not ashamed? So much guilt, and not confounded! 'Your Maker,' says he, 'is your husband;
the Lord of hosts is his name; and your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called.
This is the bottom of all peace, confidence, and consolation - the grace and mercy of our Maker, the God of the whole
earth. So are kindness and power tempered in him; he makes us, and mars us - he is our God and our Goël, our
Redeemer. 'Look to me,' says he, 'and be you saved; for I am God, and none else' (Isaiah 45:22), 'Surely, shall one
say, In the Lord have I righteousness' (verse 24).
And on this ground it is that if all the world should (if I may so say) set themselves to drink free grace, mercy, and
pardon, drawing water continually from the wells of salvation; if they should set themselves to draw from one single
promise, an angel standing by and crying, 'Drink, O my friends, yea, drink abundantly, take so much grace and pardon
as shall be abundantly sufficient for the world of sin which is in every one of you' - they would not be able to sink the
grace of the promise one hair's breadth. There is enough for millions of worlds, if they were, because it flows into it from
an infinite, bottomless fountain. 'Fear not, O worm Jacob, I am God, and not man,' is the bottom of sinners'
consolation. This is that 'head of gold' mentioned (Song of Solomon 5:11), that most precious fountain of grace and
mercy. This infiniteness of grace, in respect of its spring and fountain, will answer all objections that might hinder our
souls from drawing near to communion with him, and from a free embracing of him. Will not this suit us in all our
distresses? What is our finite guilt before it? Show me the sinner that can spread his iniquities to the dimensions (if I
may so say) of this grace. Here is mercy enough for the greatest, the oldest, the stubbornest transgressor - 'Why will
you die, O house of Israel?' Take heed of them who would rob you of the Deity of Christ. If there were no more grace
for me than what can be treasured up in a mere man, I should rejoice [if] my portion might be under rocks and
Consider, hence, his eternal, free, unchangeable love. Were the love of Christ to us but the love of a mere man,
though never so excellent, innocent, and glorious, it must have a beginning, it must have an ending, and perhaps be
fruitless. The love of Christ in his human nature towards his is exceeding, intense, tender, precious, compassionate,
abundantly heightened by a sense of our miseries, feeling of our wants, experience of our temptations; all flowing from
that rich stock of grace, pity, and compassion, which, on purpose for our good and supply, was bestowed on him: but
this love, as such, cannot be infinite nor eternal, nor from itself absolutely unchangeable. Were it no more, though not
to be paralleled nor fathomed, yet our Saviour could not say it, as he does, 'As the Father has loved me, so have I
loved you' (John 15:9). His love could not be compared with and equaled to the divine love of the Father, in those
properties of eternity, fruitfulness, and unchangeableness, which are the chief anchors of the soul, rolling itself on the
bosom of Christ.
'Come you near to me, hear you this; I have not,' says he, 'spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it
was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, has sent me' (Isaiah 48:16). He himself is 'yesterday, today, and
for ever' (Hebrews 13:8); and so is his love, being his who is 'Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and
the ending, which is, which was, and which is to come' (Revelation 1:8).
Our love is like ourselves; as we are, so are all our affections: so is the love of Christ like himself. We love one, one
day, and hate him the next. He changes, and we change also: this day he is our right hand, our right eye; the next day,
'Cut him off, pluck him out.' Jesus Christ is still the same; and so is his love.
perish, but he remains: they all shall wax old as does a garment; and as a vesture shall he fold them up, and they
shall be changed: but he is the same, and his years fail not. (Hebrews 1:10-12)
He is the Lord, and he changes not; and therefore we are not consumed. Whom he loves, he loves to the end. His love
is such as never had beginning, and never shall have ending.
It is also fruitful - fruitful in all gracious issues and effects. A man may love another as his own soul, yet perhaps that
love of his cannot help him. He may thereby pity him in prison, but not relieve him; bemoan him in misery, but not help
him; suffer with him in trouble, but not ease him. We cannot love grace into a child, nor mercy into a friend we cannot
love them into heaven, though it my be the great desire of our soul. It was love that made Abraham cry, 'O that Ishmael
might live before you!' but it might not be. But now the love of Christ, being the love of God, is effectual and fruitful in
producing all the good things which he wills to his beloved. He loves life, grace, and holiness unto us; he loves us also
into covenant, loves us into heaven. Love in him is properly to will good to any one: whatever good Christ by his love
wills to any, that willing is operative of that good.
These three qualifications of the love of Christ make it exceedingly eminent, and him exceeding desirable. How many
millions of sins, in every one of the elect, every one of which were enough to condemn them all, has this love
overcome! What mountains of unbelief does it remove! Look upon the conversation of any one saint, consider the
frame of his heart, see the many stains and spots, the defilements and infirmities, wherewith his life is contaminated,
and tell me whether the love that bears with all this be not to be admired. And is it not the same towards thousands
every day? What streams of grace, purging, pardoning, quickening, assisting, do flow from it every day! This is our
Beloved, O you daughters of Jerusalem.
DESIRABLE IN HIS HUMANITY
He is desirable and worthy of our acceptance, as considered in his humanity; even therein also, in reference to us, he is
exceedingly desirable. I shall only, in this, note to you two things:
in both which regards the Scripture sets him out as exceedingly lovely and amiable.
FREE FROM SIN
He was free from sin; the Lamb of God, without spot, and without blemish; the male of the flock, to be offered to God,
the curse falling on all other oblations, and them that offer them (Malachi 1:14). The purity of the snow is not to be
compared with the whiteness of this lily, of this rose of Sharon, even from the womb: 'For such an high priest became
us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners' (Hebrews 7:26). Sanctified persons, whose stains are in
any measure washed away, are exceeding fair in the eye of Christ himself. 'You are all fair,' says he, 'my love , you
have not spot in you.' How fair, then, is he who never had the least spot or stain!
It is true, Adam at his creation had this spotless purity; so had the angels:`but they came immediately from the hand of
God, without concurrence of any secondary cause. Jesus Christ is a plant and root out of a dry ground, a blossom from
the stem of Jesse, a bud from the loins of sinful man - born of a sinner, after there had been no innocent flesh in the
world for four thousand years, every one upon the roll of his genealogy being infected therewith. To have a flower of
wonderful rarity to grow in paradise, a garden of God's own planting, not sullied in the least, is not so strange; but, as
the psalmist speaks (in another kind), to hear of it in a wood, to find it in a forest, to have a spotless bud brought forth in
the wilderness of corrupted nature, is a thing which angels may desire to look into. Nay, more, this whole nature was
not only defiled, but also accursed; not only unclean, but also guilty - guilty of Adam's transgression, in whom we have
all sinned. That the human nature of Christ should be derived from hence free from guilt, free from pollution, this is to
But you will say, 'How can this be? Who can bring a clean thing from an unclean? How could Christ take our nature,
and not the defilements of it, and the guilt of it? If Levi paid tithes in the loins of Abraham, how is it that Christ did not
sin in the loins of Adam?'
There are two things in original sin:
From both these was Christ most free.
He was never federally in Adam, and so not liable to the imputation of his sin on that account. It is true that sin was
imputed to him when he was made sin; thereby he took away the sin of the world (John 1:29): but it was imputed to him
in the covenant of the Mediator, through his voluntary susception, and not in the covenant of Adam, by a legal
imputation. Had it been reckoned to him as a descendant from Adam, he had not been a fit high priest to have offered
sacrifices for us, as not being 'separate from sinners' (Hebrews 7:26). Had Adam stood in his innocence, Christ had not
been incarnate, to have been a mediator for sinners; and therefore the counsel of his incarnation, morally, took not
place until after the fall. Though he was in Adam in a natural sense from his first creation, in respect of the purpose of
God (Luke 3:23, 38), yet he was not in him in a law sense until after the fall: so that, as to his own person, he had no
more to do with the first sin of Adam, than with any personal sin of [any] one whose punishment he voluntarily took upon
him; as we are not liable to the guilt of progenitors who followed Adam, though naturally we were no less in them than in
him. Therefore did he, all the days of his flesh, serve God in a covenant of works; and was therein accepted with him,
having done nothing that should disannul the virtue of that covenant as to him. This does not, then, in the least take off
from his perfection.
For the pollution of our nature, it was prevented in him from the instant of conception (Luke 1:35), 'The Holy Ghost shall
come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of
you shall be called the Son of God.' He was 'made of a woman' (Galatians 4:4); but that portion of which he was made
was sanctified by the Holy Ghost, that what was born thereof should be a holy thing. Not only the conjunction and union
of soul and body, by which a man becomes partaker of his whole nature, and therein of the pollution of sin, being a son
of Adam, was prevented by the sanctification of the Holy Ghost, but it also accompanied the very separation of his
bodily substance in the womb to that sacred purpose to which it was set apart; so that upon all accounts he is 'holy,
harmless, undefiled.' Add now to this, that he 'did no sin neither was guile found in his mouth' (I Peter 2:22); that he
'fulfilled all righteousness' (Matthew 3:15); his Father being always 'well pleased' with him (verse 17), on the account of
his perfect obedience; yea, even in that sense in which he charges his angels with folly, and those inhabitants of
heaven are not clean in his sight; and his excellency and desirableness in this regard will lie before us. Such was he,
such is he; and yet for our sakes was he contented not only to be esteemed by the vilest of men to be a transgressor,
but to undergo from God the punishment due to the vilest sinners. Of which afterward.
FULL OF GRACE
The fulness of grace in Christ's human nature sets forth the amiableness and desirableness thereof. Should I make it
my business to consider his perfections, as to this part of his excellency - what he had from the womb (Luke 1:35), what
received growth and improvement as to exercise in the days of his flesh (Luke 2:52), with the complement of them all in
glory - the whole would tend to the purpose in hand. I am but taking a view of these thing in transitu. These two things
lie in open sight to all at the first consideration: all grace, for its perfections; and both of them make up that fulness that
was in him. It is created grace that I intend; and therefore I speak of the kinds of it: it is grace inherent in a created
nature, not infinite; and therefore I speak of the degrees of it.
For the fountain of grace, the Holy ghost, he received not him 'by measure' (John 3:34); and for the communications of
the Spirit, 'it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell' (Colossians 1:19), 'that in all things he might have
the preeminence' (Colossians 1:18). But these things are commonly spoken to.
This is the Beloved of our souls, 'holy, harmless, undefiled'; 'full of grace and truth':
And this is the second thing considerable for the endearing of our souls to our Beloved.
GOD AND MAN - ONE PERSON FOREVER
Consider that he is all this in one person. We have not been treating of two, God and a man; but of one who is God
and man. That Word that was with God in the beginning, and was God (John 1:1), is also made flesh (verse 14); not by
a conversion of itself into flesh; but by assuming that holy thing that was born of the virgin (Luke 1:35), into personal
union with himself. So 'The mighty God' (Isaiah 9:6), is a 'child given' to us; that holy thing that was born of the virgin is
called 'The Son of God' (Luke 1:35). That which made the man Christ Jesus to be a man, was the union of soul and
body; that which made him that man, and without which he was not the man, was the subsistence of both united in the
person of the Son of God. As to the proof of this, I have spoken of it elsewhere at large; I now propose it only in
general, to show the amiableness of Christ on this account. Here lies, hence arises, the grace, peace, life, and security
of the church - of all believers; as by some few considerations may be clearly evinced:
ABLE TO BEAR OUR DUE
Hence was he fit to suffer and able to bear whatever was due to us, in that very action wherein the 'Son of man gave his
life a ransom for many' (Matthew 20:28). 'God redeemed his church with his own blood' (Acts 20:28); and therein was
the 'love of God seen, that he gave his life for us' (I John 3:16). On this account was there room enough in his breast to
receive the points of all the swords that were sharpened by the law against us; and strength enough in his shoulders to
bear the burden of that curse that due to us. Thence was he so willing to undertake the work of our redemption
(Hebrews 10:7-8), 'Lo I come to do your will, O God' - because he knew his ability to go through with it. Had he not been
man, he could not have availed either himself or us - he had not satisfied; the suffering of a mere man could not bear
any proportion to that which in any respect was infinite. Had the great and righteous God gathered together all the sins
that had been committed by his elect from the foundation of the world, and searched the bosoms of all that were to
come to the end of the world, and taken them all, from the sin of their nature to the least deviation from the rectitude of
his most holy law, and the highest provocation of their regenerate and unregenerate condition, and laid them on a mere
holy, innocent, creature; O how would they have overwhelmed him, and buried him for ever out of the presence of
God's love! Therefore does the apostle premise that glorious description of him to the purging of our sin:
made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all
things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the
Majesty on high." Hebrews 1:2-3
It was he that purged our sins, who was the Son and heir of all things, by whom the world was made - the brightness of
his Father's glory, and express image of his person; he did it, he alone was able to do it. 'God was manifest in the flesh'
(I timothy 3:16), for this work. The sword awaked against him that was the fellow of the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 13:7);
and by the wounds of that great shepherd are the sheep healed (I Peter 2:24-25).
ENDLESS FOUNTAIN OF GRACE
Hence does he become an endless, bottomless fountain of grace to all them that believe. The fulness that it pleased
the Father to commit to Christ, to be the great treasury and store house of the church, did not, does not, lie in the
human nature, considered in itself; but in the person of the mediator, God and man. Consider wherein his
communication of grace consists, and this will be evident. The foundation of all is laid in his satisfaction, merit, and
purchase; these are the morally procuring cause of all the grace we receive from Christ. Hence all grace becomes to
be his; all the things of the new covenant, the promises of God, all the mercy, love, grace, glory promised, became I
say, to be his. Not as though they were all actually invested, or did reside and were in the human nature, and were from
thence really communicated to us by a participation of a portion of what did so inhere: but they are morally his, by a
compact, to be bestowed by him as he thinks good, as he is mediator, God and man; that is the only begotten Son
made flesh (John 1:14), 'from whose fulness we receive, and grace for grace.' The real communication of grace is by
Christ sending the Holy Ghost to regenerate us, and to create all the habitual grace, with the daily supplies thereof, in
our hearts, that we are made partakers of. Now the Holy Ghost is thus sent by Christ as mediator, God and man, as is
at large declared (John 14-16) of which more afterward. This, then, is that which I intend by this fulness of grace that is
in Christ, from whence we have both our beginning and all our supplies; which makes him, as he is the Alpha and
Omega of his church, the beginner and finisher of our faith, excellent and desirable to our souls: upon the payment of
the great price of his blood, and full acquittal on the satisfaction he made, all grace whatever (of which at large
afterward) becomes, in a moral sense, his, at his disposal; and he bestows it on, or works it in, the hearts of his by the
Holy Ghost, according as, in his infinite wisdom, he sees it needful. How glorious is he to the soul on this consideration!
That is most excellent to us which suits us in a wanting condition - that which gives bread to the hungry, water to the
thirsty, mercy to the perishing. All our reliefs are thus in our Beloved. Here is the life of our souls, the joy of our hearts,
our relief against sin and deliverance from the wrath to come.
Thus is he fitted for a mediator, a days-man, an umpire between God and us - being one with Him, and one with us, and
one in himself in this oneness, in the unity of one person. His ability and universal fitness for his office of mediator are
hence usually demonstrated. And in this is he 'Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God.' In this shines out the
infinitely glorious wisdom of God; which we may better admire than express. What soul that has any acquaintance with
these things falls not down with reverence and astonishment? How glorious is he that is the Beloved of our souls! What
can be wanting that should encourage us to take up our rest and peace in his bosom? Unless all ways of relief and
refreshment be so obstructed by unbelief, that no consideration can reach the heart to yield it the least assistance, it is
impossible but that from hence the soul may gather that which will endear it to him with whom we have to do. Let us
dwell on the thoughts of it. This is the hidden mystery; great without controversy; admirable to eternity. What poor, low,
perishing things do we spend our contemplations on! Were we to have no advantage by this astonishing dispensation,
yet its excellency, glory, beauty, depths, deserve the flower of our inquiries, the vigour of our spirits, the substance of
our time; but when, with our life, our peace, our joy, our inheritance, our eternity, our all, lies in this, shall not the
thoughts of it always dwell in our hearts, always refresh and delight our souls?
ALL AUTHORITY IS HIS
He is excellent and glorious in this - in that he is exalted and invested with all authority. When Jacob heard of the
exaltation of his son Joseph in Egypt, and saw the chariots that he had sent for him, his spirit fainted and recovered
again, through abundance of joy and other overflowing affections. Is our Beloved lost, who for our sakes was upon the
earth poor and persecuted, reviled, killed? No! He was dead, but he is alive, and, lo, he lives for ever and ever, and
has the keys of hell and of death. Our Beloved is made a lord and ruler (Acts 2:36). He is made a king; God sets him
his king on his holy hill of Zion (Psalm 2:6); and he is crowned with honour and dignity, after he had been 'made a little
lower than the angels for the suffering of death' (Hebrews 2:7-9). And what is he made king of? All things are put in
subjection under his feet (verse 8). And what power over them has our Beloved? 'All power in heaven and earth'
(Matthew 28:18). As for men, he has power given him 'over all flesh' (John 17:2). And in what glory does he exercise
this power? He gives eternal life to his elect; ruling them in the power of God (Micah 5:4), until he brings them to
himself: and for his enemies, his arrows are sharp in their hearts (Psalm 45:5); he dips his vesture in their blood. Oh,
how glorious is he in his authority over his enemies! In this world he terrifies, frightens, awes, convinces, bruises their
hearts and consciences - fills them with fear, terror, and disquiet, until they yield him feigned obedience; and sometimes
with outward judgments bruises, breaks, turns the wheel upon them - stains all his vesture with their blood - fills the
earth with their carcases: and at last will gather them all together, beast, false prophet, nations, and cast them into that
lake that burns with fire and brimstone.
He is gloriously exalted above angels in this his authority, good and bad, 'far above all principality, and power, and
might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come' (Ephesians
1:20-22). They are all under his feet - at this command and absolute disposal. He is the right hand of God, in the
highest exaltation possible, and in full possession of a kingdom over the whole creation having received a 'name above
every name' (Philippians 2:9). Thus is he glorious in his throne, which is at 'the right hand of the Majesty on high;'
glorious in his commission, which is 'all power in heaven and earth'; glorious in his name, a name above every name -
'Lord of lords, and King of kings'; glorious in his sceptre - 'a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of his kingdom';
glorious in his attendants - 'his chariots are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels,' among them he rides on the
heavens, and sends out the voice of his strength, attended with ten thousand times ten thousand of his holy ones;
glorious in his subjects - all creatures in heaven and in earth, nothing is left that is not put in subject to him; glorious in
his way of rule, and the administration of his kingdom - full of sweetness, efficacy, power, serenity, holiness,
righteousness, and grace, in and towards his elect - of terror, vengeance, and certain destruction towards the rebellious
angels and men; glorious in the issue of his kingdom, when every knee shall bow before him, and all shall stand before
his judgment-seat. And what a little portion of his glory is it that we have pointed to! This is the beloved of the church -
its head, its husband; this is he with whom we have communion: but of the whole exaltation of Jesus Christ I am
elsewhere to treat at large.
HIS KINGDOM IS GLORIOUS AND ENDURING
The spouse begins with his head and face (verse 11-13). In his head, she speaks first in general, to the substance of it
- it is 'fine gold;' and then in particular, as to its ornaments - 'his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.'
'His head is as the most fine gold,' or, 'His head gold, solid gold;' so some; 'made of pure gold;' so others say the LXX,
retaining part of both the Hebrew words, 'massa auri.'
Two things are eminent in gold - splendour or glory, and duration. This is that which the spouse speaks of the head of
Christ. His head is his government, authority, and kingdom. Hence it is said, 'A crown of pure gold was on his head'
(Psalm 21:3); and his head is here said to be gold, because of the crown of gold that adorns it - as the monarchy in
Daniel that was most eminent for glory and duration, is termed a 'head of gold' (Daniel 2:38). And these two things are
eminent in the kingdom and authority of Christ:
4). 'His glory is great in the salvation of God: honour and majesty are laid upon him: he is made blessed for ever
and ever' (Psalm 21:5-6). I might insist on particulars, and show that there is not anything that may render a
kingdom or government glorious, but it is in this of Christ in all its excellencies. It is a heavenly, a spiritual, a
universal, and unshaken kingdom; all which render it glorious. But of this, somewhat before.
government there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it
with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever' (Isaiah 9:7). 'His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom'
(Daniel 7:27) - 'a kingdom that shall never be destroyed' (2:44); for he must reign until all his enemies be
subdued. This is that head of gold - the splendour and eternity of his government.
And if you take the head in a natural sense, either the glory of his Deity is here attended to, or the fulness and
excellency of his wisdom, which the head is the seat of. The allegory is not to be straitened, whilst we keep to the
analogy of faith.
For the ornaments of his head; his locks, they are said to be 'bushy,' or curled, 'black as a raven.' His curled locks are
black; 'as a raven,' is added by way of illustration of the blackness, not with any allusion to the nature of the raven.
Take the head spoken of in a political sense: his locks of hair - said to be curled, as seeming to be entangled, but really
falling in perfect order and beauty, as bushy locks - are his thoughts, and counsels, and ways, in the administration of
his kingdom They are black or dark, because of their depth and unsearchableness - as God is said to dwell in thick
darkness; and curled or bushy, because of their exact interweavings, from his infinite wisdom. His thoughts are many as
the hairs of the head, seeming to be perplexed and entangled, but really set in a comely order, as curled bushy hair;
deep and unsearchable, and dreadful to his enemies, and full of beauty and comeliness to his beloved. Such are, I say,
the thoughts of his heart, the counsels of his wisdom, in reference to the administrations of his kingdom: dark,
perplexed, involved, to a carnal eye; in themselves, and to his saints, deep, manifold, ordered in all things, comely,
In a natural sense, black and curled locks denote comeliness, and vigour of youth. The strength and power of Christ, in
the execution of his counsels, in all his ways, appears glorious and lovely.
AS THE EYES OF DOVES
The next thing described in him is his eyes. 'His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk
and fitly set' (verse 12). 'The reason of this allusion is obvious: doves are tender birds, not birds of prey; and of all
others they have the most bright, shining, and piercing eye; their delight also in streams of water is known. Their being
washed in milk, or clear, white, crystal water, adds to their beauty. And they are here said to be 'fitly set'; that is, in due
proportions for beauty and lustre - as a precious stone in the foil or fulness of a ring, as the word signifies.
Eyes being for sight, discerning, knowledge, and acquaintance with the things that are to be seen; the knowledge, the
understanding, the discerning Spirit of Christ Jesus, are here intended. In the allusion used four things are ascribed to
them: tenderness; purity; discerning; and glory.
The tenderness and compassion of Christ towards his church is here intended. He looks on it with the eyes of galless
doves; with tenderness and careful compassion; without anger, fury, or thoughts of revenge. So is the eye interpreted
(Deuteronomy 11:12), 'The eyes of the Lord your God are upon that land.' Why so? 'It is a land that the Lord your God
cares for' - cares for it in mercy. So are the eyes of Christ on us, as the eyes of one that in tenderness cares for us;
that lays out his wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, in all tender love, in our behalf. He is the stone, that
foundation - stone of the church, whereon 'are seven eyes' (Zechariah 3:9); wherein is a perfection of wisdom,
knowledge, care, and kindness for its guidance.
Purity; as washed doves' eyes for purity. This may be taken either subjectively, for the excellency and immixed
cleanness and purity of his sight and knowledge in himself; or objectively, for his delighting to behold purity in others.
'He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity' (Habakkuk 1:13). 'He has no pleasure in wickedness; the foolish shall not
stand in his sight' (Psalm 5:4-5). If the righteous soul of Lot was vexed with seeing the filthy deeds of wicked men (II
Peter 2:8), who yet had eyes of flesh, in which there was a mixture of impurity; how much more do the pure eyes of our
dear Lord Jesus abominate all the filthiness of sinners! But in this lies the excellency of his love to us, that he takes
care to take away our filth and stains, that he may delight in us; and seeing we are so defiled, that it could no otherwise
be done, he will do it by his own blood:
and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not
having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." Ephesians 5:25-27
The end of this undertaking is, that the church might be thus gloriously presented to himself, because he is of purer
eyes than to behold it with joy and delight in any other condition. He leaves not his spouse until he says of her, 'You
are all fair, my love; there is no spot in you' (Song of Solomon 4:7). Partly, he takes away our spots and stains, by the
renewing of the Holy Ghost;' and wholly adorns us with his own righteousness: and that because of the purity of his own
eyes, which 'cannot behold iniquity' - that he might present us to himself holy.
He sees as doves, quickly, clearly, thoroughly - to the bottom of that which he looks upon. Hence, in another place it is
said that his 'eyes are as a flame of fire' (Revelation 1:14). And why so? That the churches might know that he is he
which 'searches the reins and hearts' (Revelation 2:23). He has discerning eyes, nothing is hid from him; all things are
open and naked before him with whom we have to do. It is said of him, whilst he was in this world, that 'Jesus knew all
men, and needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man' (John 2:24-5). His piercing eyes look
through all the thick coverings of hypocrites, and the snow [show] of pretences that is on them. He sees the inside of
all; and what men are there, that they are to him. He sees not as we see, but ponders the hidden man of the heart. No
humble, broken, contrite soul, shall lose one sigh or groan after him, and communion with him; no pant of love or desire
is hid from him - he sees in secret; no glorious performance of the most glorious hypocrite will avail with him - his eyes
look through all, and the filth of their hearts lies naked before him.
Beauty and glory are here intended also. Every thing of Christ is beautiful, for he is 'altogether lovely' (verse 16, but
most glorious [is he] in his sight and wisdom: he is the wisdom of God's eternal wisdom itself; his understanding is
infinite. What spots and stains are in all our knowledge! When it is made perfect, yet it will still be finite and limited. His
is without spot of darkness, without foil of limitedness.
Thus, then, is he beautiful and glorious: his 'head is of gold, his eyes are doves' eyes, washed in milk, and fitly set.
COMELY AND COURAGEOUS
The next thing insisted on is his cheeks. 'His cheeks are as a bed of spices; as sweet flowers' (verse 13) or 'towers of
perfumes', or well-grown flowers. There are three things evidently pointed at in these words:
These things are in the cheeks of Christ. The Chaldee paraphrast, who applies this whole song to God's dealings with
the people of the Jews, makes these cheeks of the church's husband to be the two tables of stone, with the various
lines drawn in them; but that allusion is strained, as are most of the conjectures of that scholiast.
The cheeks of a man are the seat of comeliness and manlike courage. The comeliness of Christ, as has in part been
declared, is from his fulness of grace in himself for us. His manly courage respects the administration of his rule and
government, from his fulness of authority; as was before declared. This comeliness and courage the spouse,
describing Christ as a beautiful, desirable personage, to show that spiritually he is so, calls his cheeks; so to make up
his parts, and proportion. And to them does she ascribe:
A Refreshing Aroma
A sweet savour, order, and eminency. A sweet savour; as God is said to smell a sweet savour from the grace and
obedience of his servants (Genesis 8:21), the Lord smelled a savour of rest from the sacrifice of Noah, so do the saints
smell a sweet savour from his grace laid up in Christ (Song of Solomon 1:3). It is that which they rest in, which they
delight in, which they are refreshed with. As the smell of aromatic spices and flowers pleased the natural sense,
refreshes the spirits, and delights the person; so do the graces of Christ to his saints. They please their spiritual sense,
they refresh their drooping spirits, and give delight to their souls. If he be near them, they smell his raiment, as Isaac
the raiment of Jacob. They say, 'It is as the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed' (Genesis 27:27); and their souls
are refreshed with it.
Order and Beauty
Order and beauty are as spices set in a garden bed. So are the graces of Christ. When spices are set in order, any
one may know what is for his use, and take and gather it accordingly. Their answering, also, one to another makes
them beautiful. So are the graces of Christ; in the gospel they are distinctly and in order set forth, that sinners by faith
may view them, and take from him according to their necessity. They are ordered for the use of saints in the promises
of the gospel. There is light in him, and life in him, and power in him, and all consolation in him; a constellation of
graces, shining with glory and beauty. Believers take a view of them all, see their glory and excellency, but fix especially
on that which, in the condition wherein they are, is most useful to them. One takes light and joy; another, life and
power. By faith and prayer do they gather these things in this bed of spices. Not any that comes to him goes away
unrefreshed. What may they not take, what may they not gather? What is it that the poor soul wants? Behold, it is here
provided, set out in order in the promises of the gospel; which are as the beds in which these spices are set for our use:
and on the account of this is the covenant said to be 'ordered in all things' (II Samuel 23:5).
His cheeks are 'a tower of perfumes' held up, made conspicuous, visible, eminent. So it is with the graces of Christ,
when held out and lifted up in the preaching of the gospel. The are a tower of perfumes - a sweet savour to God and
The next clause of that verse is, 'His lips are like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.' Two perfections in things natural
are here alluded to: first, the glory of colour in the lilies, and the sweetness of savour in the myrrh. The glory and
beauty of the lilies in those countries was such as that our Saviour tells us that 'Solomon, in all his glory, was not
arrayed like one of them' (Matthew 6:29); and the savour of myrrh such as, when the Scripture would set forth anything
to be an excellent savour, it compares it to that (Psalm 45:8); and thereof was the sweet and holy ointment chiefly made
(Exodus 20:23-5): mention is also made frequently of it in other places, to the same purpose. It is said of Christ, that
'grace was poured into his lips' (Psalm 45:2); whence men wondered or were amazed (Luke 4:22) at the words of grace
that proceeded out of his mouth. So that by the lips of Christ, its savour, excellency, and usefulness, is intended. In
this is he excellent and glorious indeed, surpassing the excellencies of those natural things which yet are most precious
in their kind - even in the glory, beauty, and usefulness of his word. Hence they that preach his word to the saving of
the souls of men, are said to be a 'sweet savour to God' (II Corinthians 2:15); and the savour of the knowledge of God is
said to be manifested by them (verse 14). I might insist on the several properties of myrrh, to which the word of Christ is
here compared - its bitterness in taste, its efficacy to preserve from putrefaction, its usefulness in perfumes and
unctions - and press the allegory in setting out the excellencies of the word in allusions to them; but I only insist on
generals. This is that which the Holy Ghost here intends: the word of Christ is sweet, savoury, precious to believers;
and they see him to be excellent, desirable, beautiful, in the precepts, promises, exhortations, and the most bitter
The spouse adds, 'His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl.' The word 'beryl,' in the original, is 'Tarshish;' which
the Septuagint have retained, not restraining it to any peculiar precious stone; the onyx, say some; the chrysolite, say
others; any precious stone shining with a sea-green colour, for the word signifies the sea also. God rings set with
precious, glittering stones, are both valuable and desirable, for profit and ornament: so are the hands of Christ; that is,
all his works - the effects, by the cause. All his works are glorious; they are all fruits of wisdom, love, bounty. 'And his
belly is as bright ivory, overlaid with sapphires.' The smoothness and brightness of ivory, the preciousness and
heavenly colour of the sapphires, are here called in, to give some lustre to the excellency of Christ.'
To these is his belly, or rather his bowels (which takes in the heart also), compared. It is the inward bowels, and not the
outward bulk that is signified. Now, to show that by 'bowels' in the Scripture, ascribed either to God or man, affections
are intended, is needless. The tender love, unspeakable affections and kindness, of Christ to his church and people, is
thus set out. What a beautiful sight is it to the eye, to see pure polished ivory set up and down with heaps of precious
sapphires! How much more glorious are the tender affections, mercies, and compassion of the Lord Jesus to believers!
FAITHFUL & STEADFAST
The strength of his kingdom, the faithfulness and stability of his promises - the height and glory of his person in his
dominion - the sweetness and excellency of communion with him, is set forth in these words: 'His legs are as pillars of
marble set upon sockets of fine gold; his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars: his mouth is most sweet'
When the spouse has gone thus far in the description of him, she concludes all in this general assertion: 'He is wholly
desirable - altogether to be desired or beloved.' As if she should have said - 'I have thus reckoned up some of the
perfections of the creatures (things of most value, price, usefulness, beauty, glory, here below), and compared some of
the excellencies of my Beloved to them. In this way of allegory I can carry things no higher; I find nothing better or more
desirable to shadow out and to present his loveliness and desirableness: but - alas! - all this comes short of his
perfections, beauty, and comeliness; 'he is all wholly to be desired, to be beloved ' -
There is no end of his excellencies and desirableness; 'He is altogether lovely. This is our beloved, and this is our
friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.'
COMMUNION WITH GOD, by John Owen, Copyright 2007, Christian Focus Publications.
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