OF THE BOOK OF
him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth;
for thy love is better than wine.
considered the title, now follows the song itself, which begins with these words; and it being dialogue-wise, where several parties are concerned, and do interchangeably speak, it will be therefore necessary, in order to explain them, to consider,
I. Who the person is that speaks and begins the song.
II. To whom this speech is directed.
III. The nature of the request that is made. And,
IV. The reason of it.
I. Let us consider who the person is that speaks; it appears dearly to be the church and bride of Christ, who here begins and continues speaking to verse 8. She first directs her speech to Christ, in this and the two following verses; in verses 5, 6 she turns herself to the daughters of Jerusalem; and then again to Christ, in verse 7 she begins the song, which,
1st, Does not suppose that she was first in her love to Christ: she was not beforehand with him, neither in her love nor in the expressions, and manifestations of it; for he had loved her with an everlasting love, and therefore had thus sweetly drawn her with the bands of love, to himself. Christ is first, both in his love and in the discovery of it; for we love him because he first loved us; it is the manifestation of Christ's love to our souls, which causes us to love him again, and in some way or other to shew it.
2dly, Neither does it suppose, that her love to Christ, and desires of his presence and company, were more ardent than his were to her; for as Christ's love is prior to ours, so it far exceeds, and is much superior to it; neither can believers be more desirous of Christ's company than he is of theirs. But,
3dly, It shews that she was impatient of delay, and could not bear his absence any longer; she was sick of love; for hope deferred maketh the heart sick; she had, perhaps, been hoping, waiting for, and expecting his presence a considerable time, and he was not come; therefore growing impatient., breaks out in this abrupt manner, Let him kiss, etc. or, “O that he would kiss me with one of the kisses of his month! I cannot be easy unless he does.”
4thly, She speaks as one who had had experience of Christ's love; she knew how sweet the kisses of his mouth were, and how delightful his company had been to her in time past; she, had tasted that the Lord was gracious; and therefore was so earnestly desirous of the returns of these love-visits, venting her heart and soul in these passionate wishes and desires. And,.29
5thly, Though Christ gives the first discoveries of love on his part; yet when the church is espoused unto him, it highly becomes her to shew an affectionate regard unto him, and strong desire after his company.
II. It will be proper to take notice of the person to whom this speech is directed, and that is Christ; and the form of speech here used, is also worthy our regard; here is no particular mention made of any person; no one particularly named, whose company she desired; but only him, let him kiss me, etc. it is a relative without an antecedent, of which we have many instances in scripture, as Psalm 87:1, Isaiah 53:2, Lamentations 3:1 unless we suppose that the antecedent to it is Solomon, in verse 1, let him, that is, Solomon, or Christ, who is Solomon's antitype, whose song this is, and who is the subject of it; Let him, I say, kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; though the connection seems rather to be with the thoughts of her heart, than with any words before expressed: she had had him so much in her thoughts, and her love was so fixed on him, she knew him so well, and had had so much converse with him, that she thought there was no need to mention his name; but that every one must very well know who she designed; as Mary Magdalen, at Christ's sepulcher, when Jesus said unto her, “Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?” she supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, “sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away,” (John 20:15). Suppose he had been the gardener, how should he have known who this him was she meant? But she was much in the same frame as the church is here, who speaks of Christ as if there was no other in the world besides him; and indeed he is a nonsuch, the most eminent person in the world, in the believer's esteem; whose language is, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee,” (Ps. 73:25). Christ then is the person here spoken of, whom she intends, and to whom she directs her speech.
III. Having taken notice of the person speaking, and to whom this speech is directed, we will now consider the request itself, which is here made, “Let him kiss me,” etc. and this may be considered, either,
First, As the request of the church under the Old Testament. And that,
1st, For the manifestation of Christ in the flesh; than which nothing was more passionately longed for, and earnestly desired; many kings and prophets greatly desired it; yea, all the Old Testament saints did more or0 less pray, as David did, “O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion,” (Ps. 14:7) and this they were so vehemently desirous of, because they knew hereby redemption from all evil would be obtained, the curse removed, and all spiritual blessings procured for then; Christ's incarnation being, like kisses, a pledge and indication of his love, was very desirable to the church, and as appears by her expressions, would be exceeding grateful to all those who were “waiting for the consolation of Israel:” He had sent his prophets, and by them had spoken unto her “at sundry times, and in divers manners;” yet she is not easy and contented herewith, but would have greater displays of his grace, by his appearing in his own person to kiss her with the kisses of his mouth.
2dly, For the doctrines of the gospel, in opposition to the law. Most of the Jewish writers understand, by the kisses of his mouth, the words of the law, which God spake to the people face to face; but that dispensation was not so desirable an one, for “they that heard that voice of words, intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more; for they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die,” (Ex. 20:19). The words of the law contain sharp and severe rebukes for sin; pronounce the sinner guilty before God; curse and condemn him, and are the killing letter to him; therefore these are not the kisses of Christ's mouth, which the church here desires; but rather they are the sweet and comfortable doctrines of the gospel, which may be so called,
1. Because they come from him; they are the words of his mouth, which drop from him “like sweet smelling myrrh;” he is the author of them, he has spoke and delivered them; they proceed alone from him, and it is he that owns, blesses, and makes them useful to men.
2. As kisses they carry in them intimations of his love to souls, to whom they come in power, and in the Holy Ghost; the love of Christ is the great subject of the gospel; it fills all the doctrines thereof, which give a noble display of it, and lead into a farther acquaintance with it.
3. As the kisses of a friend, they are grateful and acceptable to believers; they are more valuable to them than their necessary food, and are preferred by them to all that is dear in life, yea, to life itself, however they are slighted and despised by the men of the world.
4. As kisses, they raise the affections and fill the soul with love to Christ; kisses, as they are indications of, so they are incentives to love. When the truths of the gospel come with power upon a sinner's heart, they let in, not only a great deal of light, but also a large measure of love; faith comes hereby, and that works by love, both to Christ and to his gospel. Or,
Secondly, We may consider this request as the request of the church, or of every particular believer, for the enjoyments and manifestations of Christ's love. The manifestation of Christ's love is very desirable to believers, who would always have it if they could; this is their heaven on earth, and the beginning of glory to them; this comforts them in all their troubles, and is preferred by them to all earthly enjoyments; and may be called the kisses of Christ's mouth,
1st, Because kisses are evidences and pledges of love amongst nearest relations: Christ stands in, and fills up all relations to his people, and has affections for them suitable to them all; he is a kind and indulgent father, a tender husband, an affectionate brother, and loving friend; of all which he has given, and continues to give, full, and incontestible proofs; of which the kisses of his mouth are plain and undeniable evidences.
2dly, Kisses are tokens of reconciliation and agreement. Now though reconciliation is made by the blood of Christ, and believers have the comfortable application of it to their souls; yet every time that Christ withdraws his presence from them, they are ready to think that he is angry with them, and is not reconciled unto them; but when he shews himself again, and manifests his love, then they can behold him, and God in him, as reconciled unto them.
3dly, Kisses are incentives to love: there is nothing raises believers love higher to Christ, than the flowing in of his love into their souls; this warms it when cold and chill, raises it to a flame, quickens it when dull, puts it in motion, and sets it at work.
4thly, By this expression the church intends that nearness and familiarity in communion with Christ, which her soul wanted; which was not only to shew himself to her, feed and feast her, and take his walks with her; by all which phrases communion with Christ is sometimes expressed; but to be kissed with the kisses of his mouth, which is yet nearer still: well may the saints be said to be “a people near to the Lord;” what wondrous and surprising grace is this, that Christ should condescend to kiss such vile and sinful creatures as we be! to receive us into such near communion with himself! It is a bold request the church makes, and yet she is in it no bolder than welcome. These are called kisses, in the plural number.
1. To shew the various ways Christ has to manifest his love, sometimes by one providence, and sometimes by another! sometimes in one ordinance, and sometimes in another; he is not tied to one way, but has divers ways, and makes use of various means to shew himself unto his people; he is never at a loss when he thinks fit to do it.
2. To denote the frequent and repeated actings of his love to her soul which she was desirous of; she was for having, not one kiss, but many; one discovery and manifestation of his love and grace after another; yea, many visits from him, until she arrived to the full enjoyment of his love, with himself, in glory. Or,
3. The words may be read thus, Let him kiss me with one of the kisses of his mouth. See chapter 4:9 and then the sense is, “O that I had but one glimpse, one view, one discovery more of his love and grace unto my soul, but one kiss more from his mouth, which is most sweet, and altogether lovely; how great a satisfaction would it be to me, could I have but this request granted!” which way of speaking shews how exceeding grateful the manifestations of Christ's love are to believers. Moreover it may be observed, that kisses with the ancients were not frequent, but rarely used, and but once when persons were espoused, and as a token of that; and then they were reckoned as husband and wife; on which account it may be it is here desired; since it was after this we hear of the spouse being brought into the nuptial chamber, and of the keeping of the nuptial feast, verse 4-12. Again, These are also said to be the “kisses of his mouth;” which is not to be looked upon as a mere Hebraism, or as a redundancy in expression; but this heaping up of words shews,
(1.) The vehemency of her affection, how much her heart was set upon, and how eagerly desirous she was of, communion with Christ; and therefore pours out words, that she might fully express her mind; “for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.”
(2.) She mentions the kisses of “his mouth,” in contradistinction to any other; she valued the kisses of no other mouth but Christ's: the kisses of any mouth were not desirable to her, none but the kisses of his mouth were.
(3.) She hereby expresses the singular satisfaction she should take herein; “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth;” “his mouth, which is sweet and delightful to me; his mouth, whom my soul loves, whom I value and esteem above all others, and in the enjoyment of whom I place my chiefest happiness.” Or,
(4). It may point out that particular way and manner in which she was desirous that he would manifest his love unto her, that is, by his word of promise in the gospel; as if she should say, “O that he would manifest himself, and break up his love and grace to my soul, in some kind promise or other, which may drop from his mouth, and be brought home unto me by the Spirit of grace.”
IV. She assigns a reason for this request, “for thy love is better than wine;” here is a sudden change of person, from the third to the second; before she said, “let him kiss me,” etc. now she says, “for thy love,” etc. the reason of which, perhaps, is, because he was absent before, but now present; she had lost sight of him, and speaks of him as at a distance from her; but now he is in view, at the very sight of whom her faith is increased, and her soul fired with love; and having greater nearness to him, grows in her familiarity and boldness with him.
Here we shall, 1. Take notice of the love of Christ, and give some account of the nature and excellency, of it: And, 2. Shew in what respects it is preferable to wine.
First Let us consider this love of Christ, which is so highly commended by the church; in the Hebrew text it is in the plural number, loves to shew,
1st, The various ways in which Christ has discovered it; he shewed it by his suretyship-engagements for the elect in the everlasting covenant of grace and peace, of which he is the surety, mediator, and messenger; he showed it in his assumption of human nature in time; he has given a full display of it, in laying down his life for the sheep, in giving himself a ransom for many, and in offering himself a sacrifice for the sins of all his chosen ones; he has loved them and died for them, loved them and shed his precious blood for them, and in that blood, has washed them from all their sins; he now shews that he loves them, by appearing in the presence of God for them, acting as an advocate with the Father, and preparing glory for them; and he will, ere long, come again to take them to himself, that where he is, there they may be also.
2dly, It may intend the various effects of it; all the blessings of grace flow from it, such as vocation, sanctification, justification, adoption, and glorification; all spring from this boundless and matchless love of Christ.
3dly, Being in the plural number, may denote the aboundings of it; it is superabounding love; love that has heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths; it is immeasurable and unconceivable; it passeth the perfect knowledge of men and angels.
4thly, The frequent discoveries of it, which are made to the saints; and which, like the waters in Ezekiel's vision, increase and rise from the ankles to the knees, and from the knees to the loins, and from thence become waters to swim in, a river, an ocean of love which cannot be passed over.
5thly, The great esteem the church had of Christ's love, which she shows by calling it “loves,” in the plural number, as well as by saying that it was “better than wine:” the excellency of which will farther appear, if we consider the nature and properties of it, which are as follow:
1. As to the original of it, it is free and sovereign; it does not take its rise from any thing in us, or done by us, nothing of this nature moved him to it, but he loved us, because he would love us; nothing out of himself moved him to it; it was not because we were better than others, for we are by nature children of wrath, even as others; he loved us when unlovely; he died for us while we were yet sinners, and ungodly in ourselves, and enemies to himself; our love to him is not the cause of his loving us, but his love to us is the cause of ours: in this he is entirely free and sovereign; he has pitched his love and grace on whom he will, and these he loves freely; he was not moved or influenced by foreseen faith or works, or any deservings of ours whatever; for we neither deserved nor desired his love, neither indeed could we have expected it.
2. As to the time of its commencement, it is from eternity; before the mountains were formed, and the highest part of the dust of the earth was made, he was “rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth, and his delights were with the sons of men:” that he loved his people from eternity, is manifest from his engaging as a surety for them; his becoming the mediator of an everlasting covenant; in which he agreed to take care of their persons, and by dying to redeem their lives from destruction, and to bring them to eternal glory; as also from his receiving all grace for them before the world began; all which manifestly shew that he had a love for them; for all the after-actings of his love and grace are but the openings and breakings forth of this love of his, which he bore towards them from everlasting.
3. As to its duration, it is to eternity; “having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them unto the end,” (John 13:1) his love is invariable, unalterable, and unchangeable; it is like himself, “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever;” all the waters of sin and corruption cannot extinguish it; nor can any creature in heaven, earth, or hell, separate his people from it.
4. As to the degree of it, it is the greatest love, “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13) but Christ's love is greater than this, for he hath laid down his life for enemies, and even whilst they were such: here is great love for great sinners, shewn by a great person, one who “thought it no robbery to be equal with God:” and this he shewed by giving himself a ransom for them; such is the greatness of this love, that it cannot fully be expressed by men or angels.
5. As to the quality of it, it is the nearest; that of the nearest relations and friends to each other as of a parent to a child, of an husband to a wife, of brothers, or friends, to each other, are but faint resemblances and mere shadows of this; all fall short of painting and expressing to the life the nature of this love.
6. As to the pattern or form of it, it is as the Father's love to him; “as the Father hath loved me; (says he) so have I loved you,” (John 15:9) as the Father loves Christ, as mediator, with an everlasting, unchangeable, and inseparable love, so does Christ love his people. What surprising grace is this, that Christ should love us with such a love! when there is no comparison between him, who is the object of the one, and them, who are the objects of the other; when we contemplate this amazing love, conceptions fail us to comprehend it, words fall short of expressing it; in eternity only will those surprising mysteries of grace be unfolded to us.
7. As to any instance of love, none can be compared: with it, it is unparalleled; that of Jonathan's to David, of one friend's dying for another, and of those brave Romans who died for their country, which history furnishes us withal, can by no means equal or come near it; scarcely for a righteous man will one die, peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die, says the apostle, Romans 5:7, 8 where he alludes to the division of the Jewish nation into three parts, which were these; First, There were µyqydx, or righteous persons, who kept to the external letter of the law, and did, as they imagined, what that required, but would do no more. Secondly, There were others called µydysj, or good men, who were bountiful and liberal to the poor, and did more than the law required in repairing the temple and maintaining of sacrifices, etc. But, Thirdly, there were another sort who were called µy[çr, or wicked and ungodly persons, who had no regard to the law, profligate wretches, the refuse of the people. Now for one of these righteous ones, says the apostle, scarce any would die, because what he had done, he was obliged by the law to do; peradventure for one of these good men, one to whom he had been kind and liberal, a person would even dare to die; but who will die for the other sort, the wicked and ungodly? not one; but God commendeth his love towards us, in that while-we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; O matchless and unparalleled love!
8. As to its effect upon the hearts of sinners, it is surprising, comfortable, and rejoicing; for souls, when but just let into it, begin that wonder which will last through out an endless eternity; they now place an ecce, a behold before it, and say as the Jews did of Christ, in regard to Lazarus, behold how he loved him! O how has he loved me, and me! says one and the other; what manner of love is this! it is surprising, wonderful, passing the love of women, as David said concerning Jonathan's; and it being shed abroad in the heart by the Spirit of God, fills the soul with an universal pleasure, with a joy unspeakable and full of glory; the manifestations and discovery of it bear up the soul under all the trials of life, and make it long to be in glory, that it may have its fill thereof, wherefore it is no wonder the church here prefers it to wine, which,
Secondly, We shall now consider, The church had a real value for Christ's person, and therefore must needs esteem his love; his person being, to her, the chiefest among ten thousands, his love must be preferable to all others; she hath tasted a real sweetness in it, and hath seen the vanity and emptiness of all earthly enjoyments, and therefore prefers it to wine; by which. is intended the most sumptuous banquet, with all the dainties, and delightful entertainments thereof: nothing is so valuable as the love of Christ; O how excellent is thy loving kindness! says the Psalmist, it is better than life, Psalm 36:7. and 63:3. and all the comforts, pleasures, and profits thereof. I will now endeavor to shew, in a few particulars, wherein this love of Christ is better than wine.
1st, It is preferable to it for its antiquity; good old wine is accounted the best; and therefore Christ says, No man having drunk old wine, straightway desireth new: for he saith, the old is better, Luke 5:39. Age makes wine better, but not oil, as Plutarch observes. Now no wine is comparable to this of Christ's love, for its antiquity; for, as has been already shewn, it is a love which commences from everlasting; it does not bear date with time, but was before time was, and will be when time shall be no more. The Jews often speak of wine, that has been reserved in the grape ever since the creation of the world, which, they imagine, they shall drink in the earthly kingdom of the Messiah; but this wine of divine love was laid up and reserved in the heart of Christ long before the creation of the world: this excels all other wine for its antiquity.
2dly, It is preferable to wine for its purity; no wine so pure and unmixed as this of Christ's love; it is wine on the lees well refined, free from all the dregs of deceit, hypocrisy, and dissimulation; it is a love unfeigned, a pure river of water of life.
3dly, It is better than wine, and is preferable to it for its freeness and cheapness; wine is not every one's liquor, every one's purse cannot reach it, especially in some countries; but this wine of Christ's love, is to be had without money, and without price, than which nothing can be cheaper; nor is any thing freer, for it is freely shed abroad in the hearts of God's people, by the Spirit.
4thly, For the plenty of it, it is preferable to wine; wine, as it is dear, so it is scarce in some places; but this, as it is cheap, and to be had freely, so there is plenty of it: in the marriage at Cana of Galilee, there was want of wine; but there is no want thereof in this feast of love, which Christ has made for his spouse and bride: this is a river, nay, an ocean of love, which flows forth in plentiful streams to poor sinners.
5thly, It is preferable to wine in the effects of it.
1. Wine will revive and cheer a man that is of an heavy heart, and therefore it is advised to be given to such, Proverbs 31:6, yet it will not bring a man to life that is dead; but such is the nature of Christ's love, that when it is conveyed into the heart of a sinner, dead in trespasses and sins, it makes him alive; for whenever it is a time of love to a poor sinner, it is also a time of life; nay, it not only conveys life, but it maintains and supports it and keeps souls from dying; he that has had it shed abroad in his heart, by the Spirit, shall never die the second death.
2. Wine may remove a worldly heaviness, or a sorrow on the account of worldly things, the things of time; but not of spiritual heaviness, or a sorrow on the account of the things or another world, the things of eternity; but the manifestation of Christ's love to the soul, can remove this sorrow and heaviness, and fill it with a joy unspeakable and full of glory, and give him that ease, comfort, and satisfaction of mind, he is wishing for:
3. If a man drinks never such large draughts of the wine of Christ's love, it will never hurt him, when other wine, with excessive drinking of it, not only wastes the estates, but consumes the bodies, and destroys the health of men; but of this a man may drink freely and plentifully, without doing himself any hurt; nay, it will be of considerable advantage to him, and therefore says Christ, in chapter 5:1. Eat, O friends, yea, drink abundantly, O my beloved.
No wonder then that the church was so desirous of enjoying Christ's presence, and having the manifestations of his love to her soul, seeing his tore is thus better than wine; besides, it may be observed that she makes use of this as an argument with him to obtain her request; and in so doing, shews what a value she had for the love of Christ, how much she esteemed it, as also what it was she expected and sought after, in desiring communion with him.
 Midrash, Targum, R. Sol. Jarchi, and K. Aben Ezra, in loc.
 whyp twqyçnm uno tantum, vel altero de osculis oris fui, Michaelis. So Gusset. Comment. Hebrews p. 446.
 Salmuth in Pancirol. Memorab. Rer. par. 1. tit. 46. p. 215.
 zydwd amore tri, Pagnius Mentanus, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, etc.
 Vide Godwin's Moses and Aaron, 1. 1: c 9.
 Sympos. 1. 7. p. 702
 Tarquin in Song of Solomon 8. 2. and Zohar in Genesis fol. 81, 4.