OF THE BOOK OF
O that thou
wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my
mother, when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee: yea, I
should not be despised.
words are a continuation, or rather a renewal of the church's desire after communion with Christ; they contain these three things:
I. An ardent wish for a free and familiar converse with Christ; that he would show himself to her as her brother, and act the part of one unto her; “O that thou weft as my brother:” and her meaning herein is more strongly expressed, by adding, “that sucked the breasts of my mother.”
II. A resolution of hers to kiss him when she found him without; “when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee.”
III. The opinion which she entertained, that she should not be despised for such an action; “yea, I should not be despised.”
I. These words contain an hearty wish of the church's: the words may be read thus, “Who will give thee as a brother to me?” Such forms of wishing may be seen in many places (see Isa. 14:7; Job 23:2), and the meaning is, that Christ would show himself to her in the relation of a brother; act the part of one towards her; and that she might as freely converse with him, as a brother and sister may and use to do. Several Jewish writers acknowledge, that the King Messiah is intended by the brother here: in what sense Christ stands in such a relation to his church and to all true believers; as also what this wish of hers is expressive of, I shall now consider. And, 1. Christ is the Church's brother by virtue of his incarnation, or the assumption of her nature; they are nearly allied in the bonds of consanguinity; he is of the same flesh and blood with her; and she is flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone; there is a very great nearness, affinity and likeness Between them, for “in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren;” and it is upon this score that he becomes a brother to them; the words may be considered as the wish of the old church for Christ's incarnation. 2. Christ and believers are of one and the same Father: God is the Father of Christ, and so he is of all his covenant-people; of whom he says (2 Cor. 6:18). “I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters;” which is an instance of his boundless and amazing grace: hence because Christ and believers are sons of the same father, though not in the same way of dilation, he bid Mary Magdalene go to his brethren: and as an evidence of their standing in that relation to him, say unto them, John 20:17, “I ascend unto my father and your father, and to my God and your God:” it is also upon this account that saints become “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ;” they are heirs of God, because his children; and joint heirs with Christ, because they are his brethren, he being the firstborn among them. 3. Persons may be said to be brethren, by being concerned in one and the same covenant: thus there was a brotherhood between Judah and Israel, which was dissolved by God's breaking his covenant with them (Zech. 11:10, 14). Christ and his people are in one and the same covenant, and in such an one as can never be broken; though as he has the preeminence in all things, as he ought to have, so he has in this; for he is the mediator, surety, and messenger of the covenant; nay he is the covenant itself; he is the foundation on which it stands, and the matter of which it consists; he is the saints representative in it; and because it is made with him, their elder brother, in their name, room and stead, therefore it is said to be made with them, and they share in all the blessings and comforts of it, 4. Persons that are of like nature, temper, dispositions and practices, are said to be brethren: thus Simeon and Levi are said Genesis 49:5, to be brethren; not because of their natural relation, but because of their agreement in their tempers and practices: Christ and believers are brethren in this sense; they are much of the same nature; Christ has assumed their nature, and they are in some measure made partakers of his; principles of grace and holiness from him are wrought in them; nay, he is formed in their hearts; his image is enstamped, and his features are drawn there; there is a very great likeness between them; they are conformed to the image of him who is the first-born among many brethren; hence it is said (Heb. 2:11), that “he that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren;” and to the same purpose those words of Christ might be produced, in Matthew 12:50, “for whosoever shall do the will of my father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” 3. Those who are partners and companions in afflictions, may be also called brethren; hence Job says, chapter 30:29, on the account of his sorrowful and afflicted condition, that he was a “brother to dragons, and a companion to owls:” Christ and believers are brethren in sufferings; though it is true, they were not companions with him in his sufferings, yet he is in theirs the afflictions of the churches are the afflictions of Christ; he bears the heaviest part of them: for what is done to his people he takes as done to himself; and as they suffer with him, so they shall reign with him hereafter in glory, and that for ever. 6. Persons may be called brethren on the score of friendship: thus David, in 2 Samuel 1:26, calls Jonathan his brother; not so much because he had married his sister, but on the account of the mutual friendship that had been between them: in this sense Christ and believers are brethren; he is a friend to them, and such a “friend that sticks closer than a brother;” of which friendship of his towards them, he has given many open and undeniable proofs; he accounts them as his friends, and therefore treats them as such, by frequent visiting of them, disclosing of his secret's to them, and making noble entertainments for them. 7. The church might wish that Christ would manifest himself to her, under this relation of a brother, because of that intimacy, freedom and familiarity, which she might use with him as such; she would kiss him in the open street, take him by the hand, and lead him into her mother's house, and there keep a free conversation with him; as a sister might do with an own brother, and not be reproached for it. 8. Her meaning also may be, that he would act the part of a brother to her that is, that he would be pitiful and compassionate to her, and sympathize with her under all her exercises, as a tender-hearted brother would; and such an one is Christ; he has a fellow-feeling with his people in all their temptations, and gives them all needful succor and relief; in all their afflictions he is afflicted, and has bowels of compassion for them in all their distresses. 9. A brother not only sympathizes with, but condescends to the weaknesses and infirmities of his brethren, it is a wonderful condescension in Christ to stand in this relation to his people, as also not to be ashamed to own it; and being in it, he is capable of showing a great deal of condescension to them in many instances; which the superiority of a father, in which relation he also stands, would not admit of; to which the church might have regard in this wish of hers. 10. The love and affection of a brother is very great, and much to be valued, as Christ's is by the church; for “his loving-kindness is better than life,” and all the comforts of it; the manifestations of which the church may well be supposed to desire here, as she did in chapter 1:2, where she says, and what is much the same with this request here; “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for thy love is better than wine.”
Again, the church's meaning, in this ardent and pathetic wish of hers, is more strongly expressed by adding, that it was such a brother she wished for, “that sucked the breasts of her mother;” in which may be considered, 1st, What this phrase in general intends. 2dly, Who is meant by her mother. 3dly, What by sucking of her mother's breasts.
1st, This phrase in general may intend either, 1. The truth of Christ's human nature; she wishes for his incarnation in the former phrase, and in this, that it might appear to be true and real; of which his conception and birth, his being the child born, and the infant of days, his eating butter and honey, and sucking the breasts of his mother, were sufficient indications. Or, 2. The near relation Christ stands in to his church, being a brother by the mother's side; which relation is accounted the nearest, and the affection of such an one is also the strongest; of which we have an instance in the case of Joseph, to whom Reuben, Judah, Simeon, etc., were brethren, though only by his father's side; and to whom he had a brotherly love, but not so strong an affection as he had to Benjamin, his mother's son; who was such a brother that had sucked the breasts of his mother, as may be seen in Genesis 43:29, 30, 34, such a brother, so nearly related, and of such an affection, the church wisheth for.
2dly, It may also be inquired who is meant by her mother: and this may be, either the church, who may be called so, on the account of the many converts which are born in her: thus Zion is said to travail in birth, and bring forth children (Isa. 66:8), and the Gentile church is said to be the mother of many (Isa. 54:1), and regenerate souls are Frequently called the church's children, in that prophecy: or else, by her mother, we are to understand the covenant of graces “the Jerusalem which is above, which is the mother of us all,” (Gal. 4:26), for every converted soul is the birth of an everlasting covenant; hence such are called, in Romans 9:8, the children of the promise; and it is no unusual phrase with the Jews, to call themselves the children of the covenant.
3dly, By sucking the breasts of her mother, may be meant, either, 1. The enjoyment of the grace and blessings of the everlasting covenant; so this phrase of sucking the breasts is used for the enjoyment of blessings (Isa. 60:16), and in this sense Christ may be truly said to suck the breasts of her mother; for all grace is in his hands; every blessing of the covenant he is in possession of; we have all our grace from him, and are blessed with all spiritual blessings only in him. Or else, 2. By these breasts may be meant the word and ordinances; which are breasts of consolation to believers, in whose hearts Christ is formed; so that when they suck the breasts, and are nourished with the sincere milk of the word, and grow thereby, Christ may be said to suck of them, and be nourished by them. Or else, 3. This phrase may be expressive of that familiar intercourse and delightful communion which is between Christ and his church; which is frequently expressed by eating, feasting, and supping together (see chapter 5:1 and Rev. 3:20).
II. The next thing in the words, is the church's resolution to kiss Christ, whenever she found him without: in which may be observed, 1st, The resolution itself, to kiss him. 2dly, The time when she would put this into practice, “when I should find thee.” 3dly, The place where she would do this, and that is, without.
1st, We may consider the resolution itself, which is to kiss him; which is no other than what was her duty to do, and what is enjoined all believers; Psalm 2:12. “Kiss the son, lest he be angry.” Which may be understood these several ways: 1. There is a kiss of approbation; in this sense the word is used (Prov. 24:26), “Every man shall kiss his lips, that giveth a right answer;” that is, shall approve his sayings, and highly extol and commend him for them: Christ is a person to be liked and approved, being “altogether lovely, and the chiefest among tea thousands;” and so he is by every believer there is none in heaven or earth, that is so much valued by them as he is; they count all things but loss and dung, in comparison of him; they approve of him as their surety and savior, and esteem him in every character and relation he stands in to them. 2. There is a kiss of love and affection, which is used by friends and relations, and that either at meeting or parting thus the prodigal's father fell on his neck and kissed him, when he met him; as did Paul's friends, at parting with him; which kiss of charity, or love, was much used among the primitive saints; and with such a kiss as this, the church kisses Christ, whom she dearly loves, and has the strongest affection for, arising from his love and loveliness: as Christ's kisses, in chapter 1:2, are the lettings out and manifestations of his love to the church; so the church's lips are the lettings forth and manifestations of her love to him: with such a kiss as this, the poor woman kissed Christ, in Luke 7:38, who “began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with ointment; for she loved much,” much being forgiven her. 3. There is also a kiss of faith and dependence; and then may souls be said to kiss Christ, when they, as perishing creatures, come and venture their all upon him, give up themselves to him, resolving to have no other savior but him; when they can roll themselves on him, relying on his grace, trusting to his righteousness, when, whilst they are coming out of the wilderness, are leaning upon their beloved; and more especially when they embrace him in the arms of faith, and say, with Thomas, My Lord, and my God. 4. There is a kiss of homage and subjection; so kissing the king's hand, as it is an instance of his grace and favor to his subjects to permit them to do it, so it is a token of their subjection to him; thus Samuel anointed Saul, and kissed him (1 Sam. 10:1), which former act was a declaring him king, the latter an instance of his subjection to him: thus souls may be said to kiss Christ, when they acknowledge him to be their Lord and King, and submit to his laws and ordinances refusing subjection to sin, Satan, and the world. 5. There is a kiss of worship and adoration: the custom of kissing idols very early prevailed among idolatrous people; thus Baal's worshippers kissed him (1 Kings 19:18), as did also the worshippers of Jeroboam's calves (Hoses 13:2), so kissing the hand at the sight of the sun or moon, was esteemed an act of adoration of them in Job's time, chapter 31:26, 27, in the same sense it may be used here; for as Christ is the believer's Lord, he ought to worship him; and that not with a mere civil worship, which may be given to creatures, but with that religious adoration which ought to be given to the most high God; for “all men should honor the son, as they honor the father.” When therefore the church or any believer signify their love and liking to Christ, exercise faith upon him, subject themselves unto him, and give him all due worship and adoration, as well as make an open profession of him, then may they be said to kiss him. But,
2dly, She declares the time when she would do this; and that is when she found him: From whence may be observed, 1. That Christ may be sometimes absent from his church and people, which is a very great affliction to them. 2. That they cannot be easy without him, but will be earnestly desirous of his company, and seek for him until they find him, as may be learned from the case of the church, in chapter 3:1-3. 3. That finding Christ, is the comfortable enjoyment of his presence; it is the soul's having nearness to him, and sensible communion with him; which is the time that they can come so near to him as to kiss him.
3dly, The place where she would do this, and that is, without: by which may be meant, either, 1. The Gentile world, which was without the land of Judea; the inhabitants of which are said to be “without, afar off aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, and without hope, and God and Christ in the world;” so that it may be expressive of her desire to find Christ in the Gentile world, and how much her love and affections would be drawn oat to him on that account. Or, 2. By without, or in the street, as it may be rendered, may be meant the public ordinances, where wisdom cries (Prov. 1:20), and where the church sought Christ, chapter 3:2, and where finding him, she owns him, gives him homage and adoration, and lets out her affection to him. Or, 3. It may point out the way, and manner in which she sought him, as well as the place where, which was by going out of herself: Christ is not to be found within but without; believers “go in and out,” and so find pasture, food and comfort. Or, 4. By it may be meant any open or public place, where she should not be ashamed to own his person, gospel, ordinances, cause and interest; for those who are ashamed of him and his words before men, he will be ashamed of before his Father and his angels (Mark 8:38). Or, 5. By her finding him and kissing him without, may be meant her going forth to meet him, claiming her interest in him, and signifying her affection to him, before men and angels, at his second coming (see Matthew 25:6).
III. The opinion which she had entertained, that she should not be despised and reproached for such an act as this; yea, “I should not be despised; or, they would not despise me;” that is, the people of the land, as the Targum paraphrases it. Now this opinion of hers might arise, 1. From the relation Christ stood into her as a brother; for how unseemly and immodest soever it might be for a maiden in the streets to kiss a stranger, or one not related to her; yet nobody would reproach her for using this freedom with an own brother; which would be accounted as chaste and harmless an action in her, as if she had took a sucking child out of the nurse's arms, and kissed it; no more immodest and unbecoming is this act of the church's; and therefore she concludes, that she should not be despised for it. 2. From the reception she believed that she should meet with from Christ; who would not turn away his face from her, when she made such an offer to him; which would occasion shame and blushing in her, and others to laugh at her; but she was well assured of the contrary, and that it would be kindly accepted by him. 3. From her having so good an husband as Christ; which might be known by this familiarity between them; and whom she had no reason to be ashamed of, nor others to despise her for having none; not to have a husband, being matter of reproach in those days (see Isa. 4:1, 54:4, 5). 4. From her prospect of future fruitfulness she doubted not but that by being married to such an husband, she should bring forth fruit unto God, and so not be despised for being barren and unfruitful; it being accounted reproachful to be so (see 1 Sam. 1:6). 5. It may be expressive of her great love to Christ, and of her boldness and confidence in owning and professing him, without either fear or shame, before men and angels; she knew that she could not be justly despised and reproached for it; and if she was, she did not value it. 6. She may have respect to those apprehensions which the wicked will have of the saints in the last day; however mean and despicable the saints may appear to the wicked now, being in a state of imperfection, loaded with reproaches, and attended with a variety of sorrows; yet they will appear otherwise, and that in their apprehensions too another day, when they would be glad to change places and conditions with them; though Lazarus “was despised when he lay in his sores at the rich man's gate,” yet he was not when in Abraham's bosom. Thus the church might conclude that how much soever she may be despised now for owning and professing Christ, yet she should not, when she should go forth to meet him at his second coming, and he set at his right-hand in gold of Ophir.
 yl jak dnty ym dwn se adelfide mou, Sept. Quis mihi det to fratrem meum? Vulgate Latin version: O si quis daret to ut fratrem esse mihi! Junius: Quis det to ut fratrem mihi? Montanus, Mercerus: Quis dabit to tanquam fratrem mihi? Brightman. Utinam quasi frater mihi sis! Tigurine version: Utinam fins mihi ut frater! Cocceius.
 Targum in loc. Zohar in Genesis fol. 104, 1. Caphtor Uperah, fol. 5. 2. & Tzeror Hammor, fol. 73. 3.
 qwbj exw, Sept. foris, Vulgate Latin version, etc. in platen, Montanus,. Brightman, Marckius; or in any public place; is publico. Cocceius; en agrw, al. Interp al Interp apud. ilam Mobil. Not. in Var. Lect. Sept.
 yl wzb al µn ki< ge ouk exoudenwsousi me, Sept & jam me nemo despiciat, vulgate Latin version; eniam non contemnant me, Montanus; & non faciant contumeliam mihi, Cocceius; neque vero me dispicient, Tigurine version; etiam non contemnerent me, Brightman, Marckius.
 Audacem faciebat amor, Ovid. Metamorph. 50:4. fab. 4.