OF THE BOOK OF
is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon,
clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?
are either the words of Christ, commending and wondering at the beauty of his church, and confirming the daughters praises of her; which shows that they were neither wrong, nor were they alone in their opinion of her; for she was an astonishing beauty in the eyes of him, who seeth not as man seeth, neither judges after the outward appearance: or else, they are the words of the daughters of Jerusalem continued; and this I rather incline to, for the following reasons: 1. The connection between this and the preceding verse is very easy; especially if we supply the word saying, as it is sometimes done, as in Jeremiah 31:3, and so read the words thus; “the daughters saw her, and blessed her; the queens and the concubines, and they praised her, saying, ‘Who is she that looketh forth as the morning?'” etc., 2. This gives a ready answer to such a question that she might be asked, What was it the daughters, queens, and concubines said of her, when they gave her commendations, declared her the happy person, and sung her praises? why, it was this, “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning?” etc., 3. It confirms what Christ had said of her, in verse 4, that she was “terrible as an army with banners;” that they had just the same opinion of her as he had, and therefore use the same words: but if they were supposed to be the words of Christ, it would make a manifest tautology, which is scarce to be allowed of in the same commendation. 4. It best agrees with other parts of this song, which appear to he the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, as chapter 3:6 and 8:5. 5. The Targum, or Chaldee paraphrase upon this text, takes them to be the words of the people or nations of the world, which, in this paraphrase, are sometimes understood by the daughters of Jerusalem. And though the words axe interrogatory, yet they are not the effect of ignorance, but of wonder and surprise, These daughters were not ignorant of the church; they knew who she was, but were surprised at her glory and beauty: the way of speaking is much like that in Isaiah 63:1. “Who is he that cometh from Edom,” etc. Having now considered whose words they are, I shall in the next place consider the words themselves, and the meaning of them: and they may be expressive,
First, Of the state and condition of the church in the several ages of the world; especially in those three remarkable ones, that before the law, that under the law, and this under the gospel. There is a manifest gradation in the text; and this appears in the church, in those several periods; in which there was an increase of her faith, light, knowledge, and glory. And,
1st, The state of the church before the law was given, from Adam to Moses, may be intended in the first expression, “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning?” And here give me leave to observe, 1. That Adam's sin brought not only a night of darkness upon his own soul, but also upon all the world besides: man, who in his first creation was endued with light and knowledge, is now become a poor, dark creature, by the fall; nay, in darkness itself: he is born and brought up in darkness, and walks on in it, not knowing whether he goes, until he is called by divine grace; when he appears to be a child of the day, and not of night, nor of darkness. 2. The first display of grace to fallen man, which was in the garden, after the night of darkness had invaded his soul, was like the dawn of the morning; when the seed of the woman, the glorious Messiah, was made known to Adam; as who should break the head of the serpent, and so redeem him, and those of his fallen race, whom God had set apart for himself: this struck the light of joy and comfort into his soul; those dark and dreadful apprehensions he had of things, in a great measure then vanished and disappeared; this breaking up of covenant grace unto him, was like the break of day, or like the first appearance of a glorious morning: and as for Satan, whose works are works of darkness, and cannot bear the light; like a beast of prey he leered off, and lurked into his den, when this morning light thus first broke out: this was the first appearance and revelation of grace to fallen man. 3. This light of grace, which now began to show itself, like the morning light, increased yet more and more: there were greater breakings forth of it afterwards; not only to Adam himself, who was taught by God the way of sacrificing, and therein to look by faith to the great sacrifice, Christ, who was to be offered up for the sin of man; but also to succeeding patriarchs, particularly to Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord, became a preacher of righteousness; and that not of moral righteousness only, but also of evangelical, even the righteousness which is by faith: but more especially to Abraham, to whom it was promised, that the Messiah should be of his seed, and in that seed all nations be blessed; there was so great a discovery of grace made unto him, that the gospel is said to be preached unto him: and then to his grandson Jacob, there was a greater discovery made; for not only the Messiah was revealed unto him as God's salvation, which he says he waited for, and that he should be of Abraham's seed; but also more particularly, that he should spring from the tribe of Judah: the time of his coming is pointed out by him, as well as the glory and magnificence which should attend him, by mighty confluence of people to him, in that famous prophecy of his (Gen. 49:10), thus the morning-light of the gospel went on apace, and increased exceedingly. But, 4. Though here was light broke forth, and that increasing, yet it was but small, in comparison of what appeared in after ages: the first display of grace seems rather to be by way of threatening to Satan, than by way of promise, to fallen man; and tho' it was made known to our first parents, that the Messiah should be the seed of the woman; yet perhaps it was not so clearly revealed, till Isaiah's time, that he should be born of a virgin; which might be the reason that our mother Eve was so mistaken in the birth of her first son, as to imagine that she had got the Messiah; for so those winds, in Genesis 4:1, according to some, may be read, “I have gotten a man, the Lord;” and Jonathan Ben Uzziel, in his Targum on the place, paraphrases it thus, “I have got the man, the angel of the Lord;” but she could never have thought so, had she known that he was to be born of a virgin. Moreover, the greatness of his person, his several offices, of prophet, pries, and king; the nature, efficacy, and end of his sufferings; his resurrection, ascension and session at the Father's right hand, are more clearly spoken of by David, in his book of Psalms, and by Isaiah, in his prophecy, than were before; and no doubt but there was more light in the church, in David's, Solomon's, and more especially in Isaiah's time, than there had been in ages preceding. But yet, 5. Those discoveries of grace, which were mate before the law was given, like the cheerful morning, brought joy and comfort along with them, particularly to A tam; who stood trembling, expecting every moment to have the awful sentence of wrath pronounced, and the severe stroke of justice given; when on a sudden grace appears, a Savior is revealed; and the darkness of guilt and horror which filled his soul disappears, and in the room of it an universal joy and pleasure diffuses itself. The Jews tell us of ten songs that are sung in the world; and the first, they say, was that which Adam sung when the Lord pardoned his iniquity; and indeed he had a great deal of reason for it. Nay, it was not only joy to Adam; but also to all the angels in heaven, who stood astonished and surprised to see all human nature lost at once, and that to all appearance irrecoverably; but whilst they were waiting to see what the issue of things would be, a glorious display of grace is made; the way of salvation, by the incarnate Son of God, is opened; which caused these bright seraphs to clap their wings, and these morning stars to sing together, “Glory to God in the highest:” for if they rejoice at the conversion of a single sinner much more would they at the tidings of salvation to Adam, and to so many of his race; and so all after discoveries of grace, to succeeding patriarchs, were more or less attended with joy and pleasure: it is particularly remarked of Abraham (John 8:56), that he saw Christ's day, and was glad.
2dly, The state of the church under the law, may be represented under the second expression, “fair as the moon; which, though it receives its light from the sun yet splendor and brightness are ascribed to it (Job 31:26), and by other writers, it is represented as fair and beautiful; and the beautiful form of persons is expressed by it. Such was the nature of divine worship under that dispensation, that it may very aptly be set forth by this phrase; and I cannot but be of opinion, that the ceremonial law is intended by the moon, which is said to be under the church's feet, in Revelation 12:1. for though it was abolished by the death of Christ, yet it was kept up and maintained by many of the Jews, even of those that believed; so that it as one of the greatest difficulties that the Christian church had to grapple with; for though it was under the feet of Christ) yet it was a long time before it was under the feet of the church; and a wonder it was when it was accomplished; for persons are naturally fond of ceremonies; and many had rather part with a doctrine, or an ordinance of the gospel, than with an idle ceremony, or an old custom, though never so ridiculous; and this was in a great measure the case of the Jews; “Thou seest, brother,” says James to Paul, Acts 21:20, “how many thousands of Jews there are which believe, and they are all zealous of the law.” Now the ceremonial law may be very aptly represented by the moon; for, 1. It consisted much in the observation of new moons; its solemn feasts were governed by them (see 2 Chron. 8:12, 13; Isa. 1:13, 14; Amos 8:5; Col. 2:16). 2. There was some light in it, and it gave light to the saints in the night of Jewish darkness; it pointed out Christ unto them; and was their schoolmaster, to teach and lead them to him. But, 3. Like the moon, it was the lesser light, that which ruled by night, and not by clay: the light it gave was inferior to that which saints have under the gospel-dispensation. 4. As the moon has its spots, so had this its imperfections; had it been faultless, there had been no need of a new dispensation, to have succeeded; but God had provided some better thing for us, New Testament saints, that they, the Old Testament saints, without us should not be made perfect; for this law could not make them so; it could neither perfectly sanctify, nor justify, nor expiate sin. 5. Like the moon, was variable and changeable: it is done away; this middle wall of partition is broken down; this hand-writing of ordinances is blotted out; it is not only like the moon in the wane, waxen old, but is also entirely vanished away. But now, notwithstanding all this, the church, as considered in her observance of the ceremonial law, was fair; there was a beauty in that kind of worship; the laws of it, being the ordinances and institutions of God, and when performed in faith, and according to the will of God, were amiable and lovely. But,
3dly, The state of the church under the gospel-dispensation, may be said to be “clear as the sun;” for now the glorious sun of righteousness is risen, that great “light of the world” has appeared, and made “that day,” which, by way of emphasis, is so often spoken of in the books of the prophets: now the shadows are fled and gone, Christ, the substance, being come; greater light, and more knowledge, with clearer faith, are the saints possessed of than they were under the law; “the least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than John the Baptist: now saints, not with faces veiled, but with open face; not through cloudy shadows and cloudy sacrifices; but as in a clear, transparent glass behold the glory of the Lord, and are changed” into it; Some Jewish writers interpret this of the coming of the Messiah, and redemption by him, before whom darkness will flee away. Moreover, as there is one glory of the moon, and another glory of the sun, and that of the sun far exceeds that of the moon; so the glory of the gospel dispensation far exceeds that of the legal one: if the church was then “fair as the moon,” she must be now “clear as the sun:” The excelling glory of the gospel-dispensation is set in a true light by the apostle, in Corinthians 3:7-10. Now,
4thly, The church, in all these several periods whether she be considered before the law, or under the law, or under the gospel, is “terrible as an army with banners;” the church was always militant in all ages of the world; and as she never wanted enemies to fight with, so she never wanted a leader, and a commander to march before her; nor proper officers to keep her in order; nor suitable armor to put on and use; nor did she ever fail of victory, but was always “more than a conqueror through him that loved her;” and so was like a well-ordered or well-disciplined army, terrible to her enemies.
Secondly, The state of the Christian church, from the times of Christ and his apostles, until his second coming and presentation of her to himself in glory, may be here represented. And,
1st, The primitive church, or that in the age of the apostles, may be intended by the first expression; “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning?” for then the morning of gospel light broke, and swiftly and suddenly spread itself over the nations of the world; it produced joy and gladness wherever it came; and moved on irresistibly, maugre all the opposition that was made against it; and could no more be stopped in its progress, than the morning-light can.
2dly, The state of the church, in some after-ages, may be set forth by the next phrase, “fair as the moon,” it being variable and changeable; and like the moon, had different phases and appearances; sometimes lying under sore trials and grievous persecutions, and at other times enjoying rest and peace; sometimes retaining the doctrines and ordinances of the gospel. In their power and purity, and at other times overrun with errors and heresies.
3dly, The church being said to be “clear as the sun,” may either be descriptive of her state and condition in Constantine's time, when she was “clothed with the sun;” was in a great deal of splendor and glory; had the moon, the ceremonial law, “under her feet,” and “a crown of twelve stars upon her head,” the glorious doctrine of the twelve apostles; and were as terrible to her adversaries “as an army with banners:” or else, the state of the church in the latter-day-glory; when “the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold:” or else, as glorified in heaven, enjoying consummate happiness with Christ in the kingdom of his Father; where “the righteous shine forth as the sun,” and are out of the reach of all their enemies.
Thirdly, These words may also be expressive of the state and condition of particular believers, who, in their first conversion, may be said to “look forth as the morning;” their light and knowledge being but small, and their faith weak; but yet, like the morning-light, increasing; for “the path of the just is as the shining light which shines more and more unto the perfect day:” as also her being compared to the morning, may intend the beauty and glory of believers, both in their faith and walk; ‘she looks forth as the morning;” the look of faith is exceeding beautiful in Christ's eve; see chapter 4:9, or, “goes forth as the rising morn” as the Vulgate Latin reads it; that is, her talk and conversation is exceeding comely. Moreover, believers, as to their sanctification, may be said to be “fair as the moon,” which has its spots in it; and what light it has, it derives from the sun: so the sanctification of believers is imperfect, and all the light, grace, and holiness they have come from the sun of righteousness; but then as to their justification, they are clear as the sun. all fair and no spot in them; and in their faith and conversation are terrible to their enemies, as an army with banners.
 Vid. Reushlin. Cabbal. 50:1. p. 739
 Vid. Targum in Cant. i.x.
 Luna distat a sole, cujus lumine collustrari nutatur, Cicero de Divinanione, 1. 2 c, 43
 Tanto formosis formos or omnibus illa est, Ovid. Leander Heroni, 5:73. Pulchrior tanto tua forma lucet Senecae Hippolytus, act. 2. chorus, 5:740. Aurea lona, Ovid Metamorph. 50:10. fib. 9.
 Vid, Barthii Animadv ad Clau dian, de Nupt. Honor. 5:2,3. So particularly the beauty of Hero is described by the white-cheeked, rising morn, Museus de Hero, etc, 5:57.387
 Vid. Yalkut in loc.
 So of Helena, in Theocrit. Idyll 18. 5:26 it is said, Lw>v ajntelloisa kalon diefaine pro>swpon, that she shelved her beautiful face as the rising norm.
 Homer often, describes the morning by her rosy fingers, rododaktulov hwv, Iliad. J, 5:477 & passim; so Theocritus rodophcun, Idyll. 2. and as clothed with a saffron garment, hwv krokopeplov, Iliad 8 5. 1, and 19. 5:1. so, aurora lutea, Virgil Aeneid 50:7. 5:26, and as beautiful and divine. Iliad. 18. 5:255, and fair-haired. Odyss. 5. v 39, and as on a golden throne, and comely, Odyss. 15. 5:56,250. A shining brightness is ascribed to it Nitor aurorae, Lucret. 1. 4. v. 542. Rubescebat aurora, Virgil. AEneid. 50:3. 5:521.