Chapter 47

A brief Explication of Song of Solomon 2:1; or, the abused text set right.

Having been under some necessity to give hints of this nature now and then already, I need little more to finish it than rejoin the parts, and recapitulate. Let me lay the parcels of the sense together. The metaphor or shadow, is the shadow of that Canaan-Rose in the true Sharon-Properties. Let me take up that same production literally, which literally excels in the Sharon-Rose, and then bring it up to the Spiritual and Mystical Transcendency of the Rose of Sharon, Christ, in the strict particulars it will bear, and not go to work so loosely and at random in a universal fullness of what the metaphor or shadow, will not admit. This text does not set forth every sort of transcendency in Jesus Christ, but some special transcendencies of the all which meet in his Person. As 1. Transcendent beauty. 2. Transcendent fragrancy. 3. Transcendent blessing, all shadowed forth by this transcendent Rose. And there’s nothing of these three transcendencies in which the similitude is common, and holds alike in other roses, as it does in that one kind of their production in Sharon.

The Rose of Sharon was a more beautiful Rose than the common roses of the world, and therefore fitter to shadow forth the transcendent Beauty of Jesus Christ above all mankind, than any other rose in the world was. None can reasonably deny but it must be so, and it is plainly implied in the very way of comparing Him who is “the chiefest among ten thousand,” Song.5:10, because the Holy Ghost hath restrained it to this one sort rather than to any other kind of rose. It was not Christ’s Human Disfigurement in the unbelieving eye of sense, either as he was found in fashion as a man, Phil.2:8, or as many were astonied at him, Isa.52:14, {his disciples being amazed to behold the Sufferings that befell their Master,} his visage being more marred than any man, and his form more than the sons of men; no, but it was Christ’s Human Loveliness of form and beauty {in opposition to what flesh and prejudice had beheld in him} that is set forth here in the Song by the pen of the Holy Ghost. Therefore {I argue} that the Rose of Sharon shadowing it must be more beautiful literally {in order to be a fit metaphor} than another Rose. For otherwise, there had been no more ground in the illusion to set forth the beauty of Christ from the Rose of Sharon, than from the rose blooming in every corner else. So then, here lies the fitness of similitude in point of beauty. And, {that I may hint it in a word,} oh; that the transcendent beauty of the Man risen from the dead in the Personal Union of God and the Man, both natures in one and the same Person! Is there such another beauty in all the world? Sharon’s natural rose must needs have been purposely prepared by Him that made all things, with a local Excellency of beauty, which no rose in any other place was made to have; and all to shadow out some special resemblance of Jesus Christ, even as he is fairer than the children of men. Psal.45:2.

So that there is the Glory of his complexion and his true personal beauty, even as he rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven. That same natural and local rose of Sharon sets him out transcendently in his beautiful Resurrection, and his lovely Glory-State, not in his crucified condition. In the ruddiness of the rose his blood is not represented which cures our wounds. No, that proceedeth from him graciously as a Sacrifice; nor is it to giving him up for our iniquities to scourges and macerations. You must not argue from the color of the rose to the effects of tearing and rending his sacred body, when his face by the ruddiness of his blood, after they had crowned him with thorns, was marred more than any man’s, and his form more than the sons of men. Isa.52:14.

And as to a pardoning or healing, and beautifying or sanctifying virtue, it is not communicated through Christ considered as a Rose on the Glory-Throne, but as a Sacrificial Substitute on the Cross; and an Advocate, only in the case of Sin, upon the Throne. This is the distinct state of these matters. Whereas a confused, indiscreet bringing in of these things about the Atonement {to fill up three or four superfluous particulars dangerously} from Christ as the Rose of Sharon, is one of the greatest stumblings {against and overthrows of the Gospel} for poor sinners, that ever I saw in any man’s writings, who professed not himself to be a Socinian. For, as the Description of Christ in Song 2:1, is a metaphorical Description of Christ, so to argue Pardon of Sin, &c., from thence, is directly to make his Sacrifice a metaphorical Sacrifice, and the forgiveness of sins through faith in his blood to be no more than a metaphorical forgiveness, as the Socinians do. For though this metaphor of a rose does very well now, to shadow out the Communion which faith hath with him in his Love and Sweetest Beauty, yet it cannot shadow out the Pardon of Sin. For Communion with him now, as he is the Rose of Sharon mystically, is a Spiritual Communion with him in his Beauty, and may well be supported by his Relation to us in the same metaphor; whereas it is not yet an Open and Personal Communion with the open Person of Christ. Now Pardon of Sin being founded in his Blood is quite of another nature, and had the proper types to resemble it.

To go on. In the ruddiness therefore of Sharon’s Rose is rather represented the liveliness of his Face in Heaven, his Glory-Complexion at the Right Hand of the Father, and as he is the Church’s Bridegroom, even the fairest face in Heaven, Psal.73:25, whether they be Thrones, or Dominions, or Principalities or Powers, even all things that were created {in the very Heavenlies} by him and for him. Col.1:16. This sweetest Rose, Christ, or the Mystical Rose of Sharon, is sweetly shadowed out in his Resurrection-Beauty, as he eminently rose again from the dead, and that too after his sap and human vigor was retired, and his spirit given into God’s hand, Lk.23:46, in whom this Rose plant, without prickle, stood, Ezek.34:29 – Isa.53:2; and so after his actual Expiration, he having been taken down from the Cross dead, and laid in the Grave three days for burial, after the planting of this Man-Branch, or the Man whose Name is the Branch, in the land of Judah. Zech.6:12. The Rose of Sharon, without doubt pointed unto the Person of Christ, as his Person was very suitably shadowed out thereby in his Resurrection-State of Beauty, and Glory-Exaltation; not so in his State of Sufferings once on the Earth in Sorrow and Humility.

The literal Rose of Sharon had also a transcendent fragrancy beyond the fragrancy and sweetness of other common roses, and that for the reason as aforesaid. Besides, there was actually such an excellency of scent and sweetness in the Sharon-fields from this excelling production of those kind of roses, as perhaps there was not such another place to be found, to disperse that fragrancy and excellent smell of roses, in any other soil, but Sharon of the whole world. Why so, the Sweetness of Jesus Christ at the right hand of God to all that have spiritual senses exercised to discern between good and evil, Heb.5:14, and so have nostrils, i.e., experience of that kind to take in the savor of his Grace from the Right Hand of God. Rom.8:34. For indeed, he was in a Covenant-straightness to diffuse the precious savor of the Grace of God through the Man upon their hearts, until he got thither. Oh, these experienced ones find such a transcendent fragrancy in the Enjoyment of Christ’s Person and Love made known to their Faith, and communicated by the Holy Spirit from the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ unto the soul, Eph.1:3, that there is not the like sweetness and satisfactory enjoyment to be found {and alas; they have tried too many other experiments, Eccles.2:1-11} among all the sensual objects of the world! Oh! The influence and virtue of the Love of Christ risen! It prevails and super abounds, Rom.5:20, to draw off the soul unto it from all the bewitching fragrances, the pleasures, and enticing sweetness both of natural and intellectual objects, which this whole world does so charm and persuade its own to follow! Oh! None can imagine the transcendent Sweetness of Jesus Christ, except such professors of the Gospel as have found him in their souls. {“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col.1:27.}

The fragrancy and sweetness of Jesus Christ is not to be found, when we have to do with Jesus Christ at such a distance as our own spirits. We must be raised out of our selves, and converse with him in a pure faith; though common profession hath ten thousand objections against that pure faith, and most of them fuelled by this new generation of preachers in the earth! {“And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers; and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10.} Oh! This transcendent fragrancy of Christ is never found in any of our own spirits. No, it is not, though we are in our very hearts, with all the old Adam-Sincerity in the world, thinking and believing of Jesus Christ! There is a dead thinking and believing of him, and there is a quickened thinking and believing of the same Christ. This Quickening is a savory experience in our own souls, and odor of a sweet smelling savor in us that are saved, II Cor.2:15-16, that we are risen together with Him, Eph.2:6, even as he is risen to the right hand, into what he was secretly from Everlasting; secretly to and with the Father, according to what he is openly to and with creatures, entered within the veil. Heb.6:19. And so we are made in that experience, as sweetly acted by the Holy Ghost in our hearts, to seek those things that are above were Christ’s sitteth {and where this mystical Sharon-Rose flourishes} at the right hand of God. Col.3:1. Oh, then ‘tis as saints indeed, that we have our right smell of this Rose! A dead faith in our souls, a worldly and an unbelieving repentance, and a formal obedience cannot smell Christ’s fragrancy.

The Rose of Sharon had a transcendent blessing above all other roses in the world. As there is a natural blessing in general pronounced upon the earth for the bringing forth of plants, trees, the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind, &c., Gen.1:11, and as after the Curse entered righteously for Sin; lo, the nature-blessing prevailed unequally, or in a less measure generally through the world, according to the mere laws of nature; whereas in one country of it, which he purposely prepared to plant his Church, the natural blessing was not merely a natural blessing, but was mixed with the blessing of his Covenant. All Canaan was a Covenant-land, and blessed more eminently than other countries; some part of it with one sort of natural blessings, as other parts of it were furnished with other natural blessings. Particularly, Sharon was a special place for roses of the best production, and was eminently blessed with that kind; so as out of that same rosy soil the Holy Ghost has been pleased to separate the rosy metaphor, and sanctify the use of it into a very apt and proper resemblance to shadow out Jesus Christ, who is the Unspeakable Gift of God’s transcendent blessing; and yet not to shadow him out in everything of Blessing too. “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” II Cor.9:15.

From all this must follow, without the least straining of the metaphor, Transcendent Singularity. “I am the Rose of Sharon;” that is, I am the true Messiah, distinguished from all Messiahs, whether truly or pretendedly Anointed Ones. As if he had said by way of caution and instruction, the Nation of the Jews admits of this false Christ, and that false Christ, for there shall arise {among the Jews, where this prophesied BRANCH grows up till the season of his rosy blooming} false Christs, and False Prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, Matt.24:24, and pretend to mighty virtues in the Rose, but believe them not, go not after them, Lk.21:8, for “I am the Rose of Sharon.” I am “the Christ of God,” Lk.9:20, I am “the Lord’s Christ.” Lk.2:26. There be other roses to come in bloom, {for this early text in the Canticles takes up matters, even of the unction, over the heads of many of the illustrious branches of the house of David,} but “I am the Rose of Sharon,” and beside me there is no Saviour. {“I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no Saviour.” Isa.43:11.} Now here in this Singular and Transcendent Way, Christ is suitably held forth both in the resemblance and transcendency of the resembling matter.

To argue this further according to some more explicatory limitations of the literal Sharon-Rose that are applicatory to Christ.

The Holy Ghost’s literal meaning in Song 2:1, to adapt it Mystically and Spiritually to Christ alone, was a rose that had grown in no other country under Heaven beside the land of Canaan; aye, Canaan within Jordan, in contraindication to the other parts of Canaan which were without Jordan, on the other side of it towards the sun-rising, Numb.34:15; for there roses grew too. Howbeit no roses except this kind at Sharon were a Shadow or Metaphor and Type of Christ. So Christ-Man was of no Country under Heaven, but of Canaan the Land of Promise.

The Holy Ghost’s Rose of Sharon, or that which he meant literally in Song 2:1, to accommodate to Christ, was a rose growing in the Tribe of Judah. So Christ, according to the flesh, arose of the family of David, Rom.1:3, and sprung out of the loins of that shepherd, in the same tribe of Judah. {“Therefore being a prophet - speaking of David - and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.” Acts 2:30.} It is as much therefore as if Christ had said unto his spouse in Song 2:1, “let roses grow in Benjamin or Naphtali, in Gad or Asher, or any of the twelve tribes throughout the land promiscuously, I am the Rose of Judah, I am the Rose of Sharon; and there is no metaphor of a rose which I compare myself unto but that.”

Therefore the literal Rose of Sharon was some particular Rose, not a general, common one upon every blooming Rose-Bush. The Holy Ghost will have our thoughts led in the resemblance to some fixed production of the earth. Namely the local metaphor, or limitation rose within the bounds of the Holy Land, and in that land within the lot of Judah, in the regal, and not in Levi, in the Priestly Tribe. For which cause this was a chosen Rose every way fitted to shadow out the Excellency of the Lord Jesus, as he is risen to his Glory and gone into the lot of his own Inheritance. For the Lord’s Portion is his people, Jacob also is the lot of his Inheritance, Deut.32:9; and more especially Judah, as the Word says, his Portion in the Holy Land. {“And the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.” Zech.2:12.} So that as to his being with and among his people, according to what he was to come in the Flesh for, it is well set forth by the Excellency of Sharon, in Judah’s particular Tribe. {“It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the Excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the Excellency of our God.” Isa.35:2.} Let us take heed then of force-leaps to get out of Judah’s bounds, and depart from the Land of Promise, to run over hedge and ditch to call in assistance upon this text, and consult with every Rose-Bush in the earth.

The Rose of Sharon was peculiarly fitted to a place famous for flocks and herds. For these were fed and overseen in Sharon; and the Evangelical prophet with his eye upon the Gospel hath foretold some Spiritual and Mystical Application of this, in a way of Grace by Christ Jesus {“grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” Jn.1:17,} to the Church of God. “And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me.” Isa.65:10. Thus, as in Sharon literally men kept their flocks of sheep, so Sharon’s neighboring roses, in the letter too, were diffused sweetly in their balmy orders among the sheep-walks. David the Shepherd, and therein a regal type of Christ, had kept his father’s flock in Judah, and lo; the Sharon-Rose was by; yea, there was Mystically at hand the rosy, ruddy Shepherd of the Church’s flock. The Lord Christ, who kept his Father’s little flock, was by in all this. {“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Lk.12:32.} Why so now to adapt it to Christ, as to his Presence in the Church, Heb.2:12, in his Risen and Exalted State; Christ as shadowed out by the Rose of Sharon, is, in an especial manner, fitted for Enjoyment to Believers in his own way of governing the saints, wheresoever now under the Gospel there are Gospel-Churches of his own, and well-ordered Assemblies of the people of God, who worship him in the beauties of holiness. Psal.29:2. {“For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.” Mal.1:11.} For, these have Christ’s own Gospel-Pastures to feed in, and are there fed as the sheep of his hand, Psal.95:7, and overseen by the Great Shepherd, and Overseer of our souls, I Pet.2:25, in his own Truths and Ordinances sent and set up among his own, where all the fragrant Virtue and Influences of his Presence come, as the roses did among the flocks in Sharon.

To sum up the matters into a Concluding Excellency on the side of Christ, in a few other explication-helps. Christ the Mystical Rose of Sharon transcends the other literal rose of Sharon {so much too above the wandering, vagary-rose} as to beauty, fragrancy, blessing and singularity, far above all the Sharon-Properties, and yet keeping to the Fundamental Resemblances of the Sharon-Rose too; I say, Christ transcends that rose, as to beauty, fragrancy, blessing and singularity {which flows from the other three} in six particulars.

1. Christ is the Promise-Rose. No particular promise can be said to have been made of the type, but there are promises enough of the antitype. Nevertheless, pertinently to what hath been spoken, take only one. Zechariah 2:12, “and the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.” Here was a promise of Christ in Judah; and this proves a Transcendency of beauty, fragrancy, blessing and singularity in Christ, which was not to be found in the natural rose of Sharon, that having no promise made to foreshow the beauty, fragrancy, blessing and singularity thereof in Judah.

2. Christ is the Mission-Rose, or the Rose sent. For, though God is said to send rain upon the earth, and to send grass in the fields, as he saith in Deuteronomy 11:15, and the like expressions of inanimate things; in which sense it is also true that he sent the roses of Sharon; yet Christ is so peculiarly sent to be the open Rose of that denomination, that he is a Mission-Rose in a way peculiar to Himself. He is peculiarly sent of God, and not providentially as other things are sent. He is sent that the Covenant may be confirmed, and the Scriptures be fulfilled.

3. Christ is the Situation-Rose, and so placed of God as to be always near his own. He is so excellently planted of the Lord in the Heavenlies, as to disperse the Savor of his Knowledge, II Cor.2:14, or the Sweetness of his Person and Love by the Spirit, into the sheep-walks, and among the sheep-cotes, or the churches of the saints, where he maketh his flocks to rest at noon. Song.1:7.

4. Christ is the Everlasting-Rose. Men have got a sinful name among us for a poor vegetable, which too profanely they call the everlasting flower, whereas that being a just name for the plant of renown, Ezek.34:29, and can agree {be sure} even as a name to no other plant but that, for it belongs exclusively to Christ. He is the Rose from Everlasting and gone into Everlasting, as he is our Glorious Ascension-Rose in Heaven. Psal.68:18.

5. Christ is nevertheless by the virtue of his fragrancy through the Holy Spirit the Communion-Rose of saints. Not merely in common fragrancy, as he is good to all by Providences, but in the peculiar Sweetness and Delight, between Himself and the Spouse in his Risen and Ascended State, that the very daughters of Jerusalem, Song.5:16, {the common stock of professors that are not born again, daughters of the Church among all parties, but not daughters of the Lord Almighty, II Cor.6:18,} have none of this peculiar share of him to receive him in his Glory-Bloom; but the spouse alone engrosses him as he is the Rose of Sharon, even whilst herself is a Lily among the daughters, as ‘tis set forth in verse two. Christ hath Communion with his Saints as he is risen. For, as a rose is no rose until it be advanced to its bloom, that is, it is not openly so whilst in the bud or branch; so I may say of the Rose of Sharon, when you have considered it as high as the blossom-state, you can’t carry it up farther than the blooming perfection of it. It is therefore Christ’s set forth in his Exalted State undoubtedly, and not as Christ was crucified through weakness in the flesh, II Cor.13:4, that he’s there meant in that text. Now, if we take Christ in his State on Earth to be there meant, we go beside all plain evidence of the matter, because he was personally to rise higher, which a Rose in Bloom cannot. Jesus Christ after he was on Earth really ascended, Eph.4:8, and as Mediator wore that High Glory openly upon him, which was altogether inconsistent with his Suffering and Humble State. But now if we take him in all his Glory in Heaven, beyond which he cannot personally arise, and you see him in all that full Glory, as hath been unveiled, even as he stood in the Love of the Father from Everlasting. ‘Tis in this Glory of his that the saints have Communion with him; but very darkly and imperfectly, until that which is perfect of our side too, by the open Vision of Christ be openly come upon us. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I Cor.13:12.

Lastly, Christ is therefore the Glorious Kingdom-Rose in the midst of the Paradise of God. He is blooming in Heaven, of whom nevertheless it will be eternally true, he was openly once of Jesse’s tribe and stock on earth. Other roses rise out of the ground, but this stands in God, and came down from Heaven. Jn.6:38. Other roses bloom below, but Christ’s Bloom was hid below and opens above. Christ’s Glory reigns in Heaven! And he shall in his Church have a thousand year, II Pet.3:8, glorious reign on earth from the amazing prospects of his Throne, and the whole earth shall be lightened with his Glory, Rev.18:1, Amen and Amen. “He which testifieth these things saith, surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Rev.22:20.

To conclude, sinners to be converted to him have not yet to do with him as the Rose of Sharon, but as Christ made sin &c., not as the Rose immediately, but as the root to receive and bear their implantation into Himself by an act of the Father, who is the Husbandman, John 15:1, and does so influentially in time implant them by his Spirit’s bringing them to Christ, that they draw virtue from Christ as a root, and do thereby believe into his Name. Sinners must have Saving Communion with him as the Root of David, Rev.22:16, Rev.5:5, before they have conjugal Communion with him in the open Bridegroom-Day.

The saints even below at this Day, have a lower measure of it, who know him in his Ordinances, Operations and Divine Presence by the Comforter. ‘Tis he who works their Faith, and then assists it, so as hereby they partake of Christ sweetly in the very Essence of this Sharon-text, where others see him not. The saints enjoy the substantial part thereof, having Communion with the Person of Jesus at so great a distance from his Local Glory-Presence, and so by Faith are raised up to him in the transcendent Beauty, Sweetness, Influences and Perpetual Glory-Bloom of this wondrous Rose in Heaven. For he is seen in the Faith of Christ, that is, the true Faith of the Gospel, which Faith is alone the Spiritual Gift of God.

In one word, Christ is the Kingdom-Rose to be enjoyed fully in the spring of an Approaching and Everlasting Eden, in the Second Paradise of our new Adam-Head the Lord Himself from Heaven.

And thus by the good hand of my God upon me, Neh.2:8, I have been refreshingly brought to the end of these Labors.