OF THE BOOK OF
the roof of thy mouth like the best wine, for my beloved,
that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep, to speak.
words contain the third effect of Christ's going up into his palm-tree, or granting his presence to his church: in which may be considered,
I. What is meant by the “roof of her month.”
II. Why it is compared to “the best wine.”
III. The commendations of this best wine, to which it is compared; which, 1st, Is commended from the person, for whose use it is: “for my beloved.” 2dly, From the property of it; “it goeth down sweetly.” 3dly, From its effect; “causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.”
I. It will be proper to inquire what we are to understand by the roof of the church's mouth. And, 1. By it may be meant her taste; the same word is so rendered in chapter 2:3.The church's taste is good, and not like that of unconverted persons; whose taste remains in them, as it is vitiated and corrupted by sin; so that they are not capable of discerning the difference of things; and therefore call evil good, and good evil; put bitter for sweet; and sweet for bitter; but so is not the church's taste; she can discern perverse things; her taste is like the best wine, she can tell whether it is good or no: tho' perhaps this expression is not so much intended to signify the goodness of her sense of tasting, as the things which she tastes of, which are the person of Christ, and the words of his mouth; tastes that the Lord is good in his person, grace and office; and finds the doctrines which proceed out of his mouth, and the fruit which drops from him. sweeter to her taste than the honey or the honey-comb. 2. R. Aben Ezra thinks that the saliva, or spittle under the tongue, is here meant; and what may be intended by that, may be learnt from chapter 4:11, where it is said, that “honey and milk are under her tongue;” that is, the doctrines of the everlasting gospel, which she lays and keeps there, and rolls them as a sweet morsel in her mouth, having tasted the goodness of them; herein she appears to be exceeding different from carnal and unconverted persons, under whose lips the poison of asps is said to be (Rom. 3:13). 3. Others think, that by the roof of her mouth, is meant her breath; which proceeds from thence, Was, sweet and of good smell, like the best wine; and not like the breath of carnal persons, whose throats are like an open sepulcher; from whence are daily belched out horrid oaths, dreadful curses and imprecations upon themselves and others, with cruelty and threatenings to the saints and people of God; but as for the church's breath, it is of a different nature; no rotten communication proceeds out of her mouth, but what may be for the use of edifying; she breathes out nothing but peace and love among her members, and also to others: and as for her prayers to God, which may be justly called the breathings of her soul; these are as sweet odors, being perfumed with the incense of Christ's mediation. Though, 4. I rather think, that by the roof of her mouth, is meant her speech, or the words of her mouth; for the roof of the mouth is an instrument of speech, as well as of tasting; and the same word is frequently rendered the mouth, as in chapter 5:16 (Prov. 5:3, 8:7), which may either intend her speech in common conversation; which, like the best wine, is warming, comforting, and refreshing to souls, as well as grateful to Christ: How many have been cold, dull, and lifeless, when they have first come into the conversation of the saints; and by it have been warmed, quickened, and refreshed, so that they have gone away With joy and tom-fret, blessing and praising God for such opportunities! Or else, by it may be meant the speech of the church in prayer or praise, which are both delightful and well-pleasing to Christ; her voice in either is sweet unto him, makes delightful music in his ears; though the prayers of the saints are but like the chatterings of a crane or swallow, yet they are gratefully received by him; as are also their praises, which are more esteemed by him, than the sacrifices of an ox or a bullock that has horns and hoofs: though I am most inclined to think that the gospel, which proceeds out of Christ's mouth, and is put into the mouth of his church, which is preached in the midst of her, and by her ministering servants; is here intended. Which brings us to consider,
II. Why this is compared to the best wine: Perhaps the wine of Sharon may be referred to, which was so strong, that they mixed it two parts water and one wine; tho' there were other places in Judea that had the first name for wine ; the wine of Lebanon was very grateful for taste and smell (Hosea 14:7), where was a city, called Ampeloessa, from the excellency of its wine. 1. That is the best wine which is pure and free from dregs and mixtures; that Which is upon the lees, well refined: such is the gospel, as preached by the faithful ministers of it, who are not as some, which corrupt the word of God; they do not mix it with their own inventions, but deliver out this wine of the gospel, neat and clean, as they have received it. 2. Wine that has age, is also accounted the best: thus saith Christ (Luke 5:39). “No man having drunk old wine, straightway desireth new; for he saith, the old is better:” the gospel is no novel doctrine; for though it is more clearly made known under the New Testament dispensation, than it was under the Old, yet it was known then; it was wrapped up in the types, shadows and sacrifices of the old law; it was preached before unto Abraham, nay, to our first parents in the garden; and was spoken of more or less, ever since, by the mouth of God's holy prophets, which have been since the world began. 3. The best wine is that which is of a good flavour, and delightful to the taste, as well as that which is of a good color: such is the gospel; it is like milk for nourishment, and like wine for pleasantness; nay, like Ezekiel's roll, as honey for sweetness; yea, the psalmist says (Ps. 119:103), that the words of God's mouth were sweeter than honey to his mouth. 4. Wine is of a cheering and reviving nature; it is what makes glad the heart of man; and therefore is proper to be given to those that be of heavy hearts, that they may drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more of such a nature is the gospel; it being received by persons in distress, like the best wine; it cheers and revives their spirits, it makes them forget their spiritual poverty, and puts out of their minds their former misery and distress; whilst they behold what riches of grace are treasured up in Christ, and what ample provisions are there made for them; nay, it not only revives distressed and drooping souls, but such is the virtue and efficacy of it, that it will bring dead sinners to life; for it is the savor of life unto life to many. 5. The best wine is very refreshing to weary persons, who have been fatigued with labor and travel: the gospel is a word in season to him that is weary; it not only directs the weary soul where it may have rest, kindly invites unto it, but is also the instrument of bringing him into it. 6. Wine is reckoned a comforter and strengthener of the stomach; therefore the apostle Paul advised Timothy (1 Tim. 5:23), to use a little wine for his stomach sake; and his often infirmities: the doctrines of the gospel have a tendency to comfort souls; they are often blessed for that purpose; the ministers of it are employed herein on that account; and the Spirit of God does his work, and executes, his office as a comforter by them. Thus the gospel, the word; which is in and proceeds out of the church's mouth, may be compared to the best wine.
III. I shall now consider the commendations given of this best wine of the gospel. And,
1st, It is commended from the persons for whose use it is, for my beloved; and therefore must needs be the best: it is such wine as a man would give to his friend, whom he dearly loves; who, when he pays a visit to him, if he has any wine in the house, he shall be sure to have it; and if he has any better than the rest, it shall be at his service. But who are we to understand by this beloved, for whose use this wine is? And, 1. We may understand these words as the words of Christ, speaking to and of his church and people, whom, in chapter 5:1, he calls his beloved, and his friends; and these he treats as such, with his best wine; the gospel, which is chiefly designed for their good, comfort, and establishment, 2. If we take these words to be the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, as some do, and that not only these, but all that is Spoken in the preceding verses; then the beloved is Christi whom they call their own; having now arrived to a greater knowledge of him, and acquaintance with him, than they formerly had; see chapter 5:9 and 6:1, nor need it be wondered at, that it should be expressed in the singular number, my beloved; seeing it may well be supposed, that but one of them spoke, and delivered these commendations of the church. Though; 3. I rather take them to be the words of the church, speaking to and of Christ; who, hearing such great things spoken in the commendations of herself, could hold no longer; but, as one expresses it, snatches the word out of Christ's mouth, breaks in upon his discourse before he had done, and thrusts in these words, referring all the glory to him: it is as if she should say, Is the roof of my mouth like the best wine? it is for my beloved; it is of his making and providing, and in which his glory is much concerned, as well as my comfort; “for we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord;” he is the subject, the sum and substance of the gospel; it is designed for the manifestation of his grace; and the advancement of his glory; and its being so, makes it so comfortable and delightful to souls. Junius and Piscator render the word, most lovingly or most lovelily: and so understand it of the manner of this best wine, going down and being received by persons; but this is sufficiently expressed in the next clause, which I shall now consider.
2dly, This wine of the gospel, is commended from the property of it, which is here mentioned; it goeth down sweetly, which words may be differently rendered, and as differently understood. And, 1. They may be translated thus, that walketh or moveth aright; as they are in Proverbs 23:31, where wine is also spoken of, and denotes its sparkling in the cup; which shows it to be a generous wine, of a good body, and that it has life and spirit in it; therefore the wise man, in the fore-mentioned place, advises not to look upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright, because when it is so, it is very ensnaring: but here is no such danger in this wine of the gospel; the pleasantness of which, both in the eyes of Christ .and of his church, may be here intended. 2. The words may be rendered thus, which goeth to my beloved straightway or directly; and so may denote the direct tendency of the gospel to lead souls to Christ, and to advance his honor and glory; for the whole of it consists in this, Christ in us the hope of glory. Or, 3. Thus, it goeth or leadeth to righteousnesses; for it is one principal part of the gospel to lead souls to the righteousness of Christ, which is clearly revealed therein; that, disclaiming all pretences to their own righteousness for justification, they may wholly and alone look unto, and depend upon that tot their acceptance with God, and justification in his sight: moreover, it also teaches them, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Or, 4. They may be thus rendered, that goeth or walketh to upright persons; for so the word is rendered in chapter 1:4, and indeed it is to such persons that the gospel is of real service and advantage; to them that believe, it is the power of God unto salvation; it works effectually in their hearts; these receive it in the love of it; by them it is highly valued and esteemed; and to them it yields much solid comfort, pleasure and satisfaction. For with such, 4. It goeth down sweetly, as our translators have rendered the words: This wine of the gospel is received and taken down with all readiness by all those who have once tasted the sweetness, and felt the power of it; with them the gospel is no hard saying, and who can bear it? but, like the best wine that is very delightful: with some persons, the doctrines of the gospel, such as those of an eternal, personal election, particular redemption, powerful and efficacious grace in conversion, final perseverance, etc. are very disagreeable; but to believers in Christ, they are like wine that goeth down sweetly.
3dly, This wine is commended, from the effect it has upon those who drink of it; it “causeth the lips of those that are asleep to speak.” In which may be considered, 1st, The persons on whom it has this effect, “those that are asleep.” 2dly, The effect itself, which it has upon them, “it causeth their lips to speak.”
1st, The persons on whom this wine of the gospel has this effect; and they are such who are asleep. The Hebrew word, here used, is by some rendered ancient persons; for persons, when they are grown old, have not their senses so quick, nor are they so full of talk, but are more slow of speech, than when they were in their youthful days; yet Cicero says, senectus est natura loquacior; and therefore this serves much for the commendation of this wine, that it should have such an effect upon such persons; for that must be noble and generous wine that invigorates old men, and fills them with a juvenile heat, warmth and sprightliness: it makes them loquacious, which is one effect of wine, when freely drank; and it softens the moroseness of ancient men; wine is even said to make an ancient man dance. But the word may very well, and perhaps better, be rendered as it is, “those that are asleep;” by which may be meant, either, 1. Sinners, who are in the dead and deep sleep of sin. These, (1.) As persons asleep, have not the free exercise of their senses; they do not see their lost, miserable and undone state by nature, nor their need of Christ, and the value of him: their ears are stopped, that they cannot hear, so as to understand the joyful sound; they have no taste nor savor of divine things; and many have arrived to such a prodigious pitch of wickedness, as to be past feeling, having their “consciences seared with an hot iron:” nay, in this they exceed persons that are asleep who, though they have not the free exercise of their senses whilst asleep, yet are not destitute of them; but these have no spiritual sense at all, but are “dead in trespasses and sins.” (2.) Like persons asleep,, they are strengthless, and are not in a capacity to do any thing that is spiritually good of themselves: they cannot redeem themselves from destruction; they cannot fulfill the righteous law of God, nor satisfy divine justice; they have not power to begin, nor carry on a work of grace upon their souls; they cannot subdue their corruptions, nor withstand Satan's temptations, nor perform the duties of religion; these things are not effected by the might and power of man. (3.) Like persons asleep, they are inactive; “their strength is to sit still;” they have neither power nor will to do that which is good; “there is none that doeth good, no, not one;” they have no true knowledge of what is good; for though “they are wise to do evil, yet to do good they have no knowledge;” and if they had knowledge, they have no inclination; and if they had that, yet still they have no power; “for the Ethiopian may as soon change his skin, or the leopard his spots, as they do good that are accustomed to do evil.” (4.) Like persons asleep, they are subject to illusions and mistakes; they are mistaken about the nature of the divine Being, whom they dither imagine to be such an one as themselves, who will either connive at sinful actions, or take little or no notice of them; or else, presume upon his absolute mercy, to go on in sin: and they are as much deceived about the nature of sin itself, which they now roll as a sweet morsel in their mouths, but will ere long find to be as gravel-stones: and so they are like-wise with respect to the ways of God, and people of Christ; in the former of which they suppose there is no true pleasure; and in the latter, no enjoyment of true felicity; but in nothing are they more mistaken than in themselves and their state; which they imagine to be good, when at the same time they are poor, and wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked, (5.) Like persons asleep, they insensible of danger; they are walking in the broad road to destruction, and are upon the brink of it, and yet know it not; they are crying, Peace, peace, when sudden destruction is at hand. Or else, 2. By. those that are asleep, may be meant drowsy professors: the wise as well as the foolish virgins slept; Christ's church may sometimes be in such a condition, as she was in chapter 5:2, this sleep is not a dead sleep, as the former; there may be life notwithstanding this, “I sleep, but my heart waketh:” this consists in a non-exercise of grace, an indifference to religious duties, a lukewarmness and want of zeal for the glory of Christ and his gospel, occasioned by the prevailings of sin and corruption; see more on chapter 5:2. But,
2dly, Let us consider what effect the wine of the everlasting gospel has upon the above said persons; when it comes in power, and is received in the love of it, it causes their lips to speak. In the former of these persons, that is, in carnal and Christless sinners, it produces humble confessions of sin: it makes them speak in the praise of Christ and his grace, whereby salvation is procured for such lost and perishing creatures, as they by nature were; it brings them to the gates of Zion, there to declare to the saints the great things which God has done for them: it makes the tongue of the dumb to sing, who before had not one word to say for Christ, and of his grace; and those who were stammerers at these things, it makes them ready to speak plainly: as for the latter sort of persons, that is, sleepy and drowsy professors, it makes them speak-meanly and modestly of themselves, and very highly of Christ and his grace; for such souls who have drank the largest draughts of this wine, and have the greatest share of knowledge in gospel-truths, are the most humble; they are ready to acknowledge themselves the least of saints, and the chief of sinners: and none more frequent than they in magnifying Christ, and exalting the riches of his grace.
 Sanctius in loc.
 Misn. Niddah, c. 2. s. 7.
 As Kerutim, Hatulim; and next to them, Beth-rima and Beth-laban in the mountain, and Cephar-signah in the valley, Mish hot, c. 8. s. 6.
 Plin. 1. 5. c. 18.
 Atcuin in loc.
 µyrçyml directe, Mercerus; rectissime, Brightman, Junius.
 Eiv euquthta, Sept. ad rectitudines, Montanus; ad ea quae rectissima sunt, Tigurine version.
 Ad rectitudines, i.e. rectos homines, Marckius, Michaelis.
 µynçy ytpç labia veterum, Pagninus; antiquorum, Vatablus.
 De Senectute c. 16.
 Plutarch. Sympos. 50:7. p. 715.
 Philoxenus apud Athen. Deipnosophist, 50:2. c. 1. p. 35. Vid. Sanhedrin T. Bab. fol. 38. I.
 Philoxen. apud Athen. Deipnosoph. 1. 11. c. 3. p. 463.
 Ibid. 50:4. c. 4. p. 124. & 50:10. c. 7. p. 428.