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Chapter 4 Verse 11

Thy lips, O my spouse! drop as the honey-comb: honey and milk
are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell
of Lebanon.

first wordhaving declared, in the two former verses, how much his heart was taken with the faith and love of his church, and delighted with the smell of her ointments, here, with pleasure, takes notice of her mellifluous language, and sweet-smelling dress. Two things are here commended in her;

I.The sweetness of her speech.

II.The smell of her garments.

I.The sweetness of her speech: Christ’s heart was not only ravished with her sparkling eye and dazzling chain, but also with her charming lips and graceful language; “Thy lips, O my spouse! drop as the honey-comb,” etc. her lips dropped things for matter like the honey-comb; and these things in such a manner as the honey-comb does: so the speech of persons, flowing from the mouth and tongue, is said to be sweeter than the honey-comb;531531Vid. Theocrit. Idyll. 21, 5:26, 27. Homer, Iliad. 10:5:249. and lovers are said to be sweeter to one another than the sweet honey.532532Plaut. Asinaria, act. 3. c. 3. 5:24,

First, Things for matter like the honey-comb; “Pleasant words,” says Solomon, Proverbs 18:24, “are as an honey-comb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” Such pleasant words, which are as the honey-comb, drop from the church’s, and from every believer’s lips, 1. In prayer; so the Targum expounds these words of the priest’s lips, dropping as the honey-comb, when they prayed in the holy court. The believer oftentimes drops things in prayer; which, as they are profitable to himself and others, for the effectual, fervent, ejnergoumh>nh, the inwrought “prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” James 5:16, so they are sweet, pleasant, delightful and acceptable to Christ: “the prayer of the upright is his delight;” the prayers of the meanest believer are as delightful music in his ears, as sweet-smelling odors in his nostrils, and like the honey or honey-comb to his taste. 2. In praises: Christ has done great things for his church and people in the redemption and salvation of them; and therefore praise becomes them; it is their duty: and as this work is oftentimes pleasant to their own souls; so in discharging it, they often drop things in the praise of Christ’s person and grace, which are exceeding grateful and well-pleasing to him. 3. In confessing Christ’s name, and owning his truths before men: this is a work exceeding necessary, and a duty highly incumbent on God’s children; at every opportunity, and whenever they are called to it, they ought to do it; and as the omission of it is much resented by Christ, so the performance of it will be graciously rewarded, as appears from Matthew 10:32; thus Paul, both at Jerusalem and at Rome, and many other martyrs and confessors, have, in the behalf of Christ and his gospel, dropped words like the honey-comb. 4. In the ministry of the word: the church’s lips are the ministers of the gospel, so Theodoret; whose business is to deliver, not so much “the senses of the law,” which is Jarchi’s note on the words, as the doctrines of the gospel; these lips drop “the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ;” and not words which eat like a canker, but words, which, like the honey-comb, are “health to the bones.” 5. In common conversation: the lips of the saints do frequently therein drop words pleasant and delightful; which tend to the edification of those with whom they converse, and “minister grace to the hearers;” and so are like the honey-comb, both pleasant and profitable.

Secondly, Her lips dropped these things in such a manner as the honey-comb does; 1. Freely, and without pressing or squeezing: a soul that has received the “grace of God in truth, cannot but speak of the things which he has heard and seen; being full of matter, his belly is as wine which hath no vent, and is ready to burst, like new bottles;” therefore he must speak, that he “may be refreshed;” there needs no other constraint to be laid on him, than what he feels in his own breast. 2. Gradually: the honey-comb does not pour out. all at once, but by degrees; a man of grace, like the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:26 opens his mouth with wisdom, and not like the fool who pours out his foolishness, and utters all his mind at once; but delivers his words with moderation and discretion, and observes proper seasons and opportunities to speak his mind: now a word fitly, prudently, and seasonably spoken, is like apples of gold in pictures of silver;” for as we are to walk, so we are to “talk in wisdom,” both to those “that are without,” and to those that are within. 3. Constantly: the honey-comb, though it drops gradually, yet it keeps constantly dropping; so a believer’s speech should “be always with grace;” he should be always praying or praising, or dropping something which may tend to the magnifying of God’s grace, and the good and edification of souls.

These words in general shew the choiceness of a believer’s discourse; that it is not any thing that is the subject of it; no common and ordinary things which he is speaking of, but what are choice and excellent; as the honey which drops from the honey-comb is esteemed the best, being what we call life-honey; as also, how much Christ’s heart was taken with it, and his affections drawn by it; it had a mighty influence upon him, and strongly engaged his heart towards her; see Proverbs 5:3. Now the reason why her lips dropped after this manner, was, because “honey and milk were under her tongue;” and. therefore they could not well drop otherwise. The ancients had a sort of food of this mixture, called by the Greeks meligala533533Vid. Cohen de Lara, Ir David, p. 52. the word is used in T. Hieros. Challab, fol. 57- 4. and sometimes candylos534534Atben. Deipnosophist.1. 1. c.8. p. 9. &1. 14. c. 13. p. 644. Suidas in vote Kandulov. Aristoph. Pax. & Florent. Christian. in Ib. p. 632. which was the same composition: according to Galen535535Lib. de Bono Sapore, c. 4. it was not safe to take milk, particularly goats milk, without honey; Jove is said536536Lactant. de Fals. Relig.1. 1. c. 22. to be nursed with such a mixture: and this being very grateful to the taste, the speech of the church for pleasantness is compared to it: so Pindar537537Nemea, ode 3. d. 10, 11. compares his hymn or ode to honey mixed with milk, as being sweet and grateful; and in Plautus538538Truculent, act. 1. sc. 2. 5:75, 76. it is said, “Your words are honey and milk:” and it may be farther observed, that such a mixture of milk and honey, with poppies in it, was given to the new-married bride, when brought home to her husband;539539Nec pigeat tritum nivee cum lacte papaver, etc, Ovid Fasti.1. 4. 5:149. 150. which was now the case of the church. By “milk and honey,” may be intended the aboundings and overflowings of grace in a believer’s heart, which thereby is made like Canaan’s land, “flowing with milk and honey;” now out of the abundance of this grace, received into the heart, the mouth speaks: or else, by them may.369 be meant the doctrines of the gospel; which may very well be compared thereunto, words sweeter than honey and milk.540540Vid. T. Bab. Chagigah. fol. 13. 1.

1st, To honey, 1. The gospel is gathered out of the choice flowers of the scriptures: the ministers of it, “who labor in the word and doctrine,” are the bees, who come laden with the honey of the gospel, into the hive of the church, by which souls are delighted and refreshed. 2. It is like to honey for its sweetness: thus David could say, Psalm 119:103. by experience, “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea sweeter than honey to my mouth:” a gracious soul, who feeds on the gospel, and tastes the sweetness of it, finds it, as Ezekiel did his roll, “like honey for sweetness” in his mouth; and so it is always thus grateful to a spiritual man, who has a proper gust and relish of it. 3. Like honey, it is of a nourishing nature: honey was not only the food of babes, but of grown persons, as appears from Isaiah 7:15, 22, the gospel has in it food both for “children and for strong man and that which is exceeding nourishing to both. 4. Like the honey which Jonathan eat of, it enlightens the eyes: when the Spirit of God introduces it into a sinner’s heart, it gives light there, as the psalmist says, Psalm 119:130.” The entrance of thy words giveth light;” it gives light into a man’s self, into his lost and miserable state by nature; it gives light into the impurity of his heart, and the imperfection of his obedience; it gives light into the person, grace and righteousness of Christ; and is an instrument, in the Spirit’s hands, “to guide his feet in the way of peace.” 5. It is like the honey the Israelites sucked out of the rock in the wilderness: the rock is Christ, from whence the honey of the gospel flows; he is the author, and he is the subject of it. Or, 6. It is like the honey Samson found in the carcass of the lion: Christ is the “lion of the tribe of Judah; in whose slain body and precious blood, the honey of gospel-grace is to be found by poor sinners, who feed upon it.

2dly, As the gospel may be compared to honey, so likewise to milk; it is called the “sincere milk of the word;” which is not mixed and blended with human doctrines, but is free from such adulterations; and so is exceeding profitable, and no ways hurtful to the souls of men. 1. it may be compared to milk, because it is easy of digestion, and therefore proper food for new-born babes: hence the apostle fed the Corinthians with the milk of the word, and not with the strong meat thereof; because they were not as yet able to bear it, could not digest it; but the plainer and more easy truths of the gospel are like milk, easy of digestion to souls that are horn again; though even these to a natural man are hard sayings, which he cannot bear. 2. Like milk, it is very nourishing; Christ’s new-born babes grow hereby, being “nourished up in the words of faith, and of good doctrine. 3. Milk is of a cooling nature, and useful in abating the violence of inflammations;541541Fernel. Method. Medend.1. 5. c. 27. so the gospel, being applied by the Spirit to a poor sinner, who has been under a work of the law, represses the violence of those inflammations raised in his conscience, by a fiery law’s working wrath there; which is wonderfully allayed by the milk of the gospel, and the application of the exceeding great and precious promises of it, which lead the soul to the person, blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. 4. Milk is esteemed useful to persons in consumptions, and therefore a milky diet is usually recommended to them; sin is a wasting and consuming distemper, which is only cured by bringing the milk of the gospel; which, when powerfully applied by the Spirit of God, is “the savor of life unto life;” and will not only recover a person that is far gone, and in the most declining condition, but also restore him from death itself.

Now when these are said to be under her tongue, it intends either, (1.) That they were in her heart; so Psalm 66:17: “he was exalted with my tongue,” or he was exalted under my tongue, that is, in my heart; it was in my heart to exalt him, I purposed and designed it: so here, “honey and milk are under thy tongue,” that is, they are in thy heart; it is one thing to have a notion of the gospel in our heads, and another thing to have it in our hearts by a comfortable experience. (2.) It supposes that she tasted the sweetness of those truths; she rolled them as a sweet morsel under her tongue, as Job 20:12, resolving to have all the pleasure and satisfaction which might arise from thence. (3.) That these were the constant subject of her meditation, Psalm 10:7, having tasted a sweetness in them, which drew her affections to them, her thoughts were always employed about them. (4.) That she was always ready to speak of them at suitable times, and on proper occasions, having them under her tongue. (5.) This shews the difference there is between a carnal, Christless sinner, and a true believer; the one has “the poison of asps under his lips,” Romans 3:13, and the other “honey and milk under his tongue;” the speech of the one is poisonous and infectious, and the language of the other sweet and edifying; so that as by their words they shall be justified, by their words also they may be known; their speech bewrays them, and declares to what company they belong.

II.The second thing commended in her, is the smell of her garments; the ancients used to scent their garments; Calypso gave to Ulysses sweet-smelling garments;542542Eimata duwdea, Homer. Odyss. 5. 5:264. & 21. 5:52. The murwn empnov ampeconh, Posidippus apud Athen. Deipnosophist.1. 13. c. 7. P. 596. “and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon:” in Lebanon grew many odoriferous trees, which did emit a fragrant smell to passers by, hence called “sweet-smelling Lebanon;”543543Lebanou quoentov, Museus de Hero. etc. 5:48. so the graces of God’s people are said to smell as Lebanon, Hosea 14:6. By her garments here, may be meant, 1. The “garments of salvation, and the robe of Christ’s righteousness: Christ’s garments are said to “smell of myrrh, aloes and cassia; now these very garments are put upon the believer, so that it is no wonder his garments smell like Lebanon; in these believers appear before God, as Jacob did before his father, in the garments of his elder brother Esau, and are in his nostrils a sweet-smelling savor; for the smell of their raiment to him is like “the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed;” he is exceeding well pleased with it, and with them in it; Christ smells a sweet odor, even in those garments which he himself has wrought out, and clothed his people with. Or else, 2. By them we may understand the outward conversation garments of, the saints; which are wholesome and savory, and not like the conversation of the wicked, filthy, of an ill smell, nauseous and infectious: when works go along with words, and practice with profession; when with lips dropping like the honey-comb, the sweet-smelling garment of a gospel conversation is joined, how does it adorn a Christian, and render him lovely and acceptable, and causes his smelt, to be as that of Lebanon? Some Jewish writers544544Vid. Targum & R. Sol. Jarchium in loc. & Midrash in Mercer. in foe. refer these garments to the sacerdotal garments of the priests; which were certainly typical of those, which Christ, as our high-priest, wears, and with which he clothes his people.

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