I am black, but comely, O you daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.…
I. THE CHURCH OF GOD AND CHRISTIANS, WHILST THEY ARE HERE, ARE IN AN IMPERFECT STATE. There is a mixture of some light and darkness together, and so it will be till we come to heaven, both for sin and sorrow, for sins and defects in soul. The causes why God will have it so are:
1. In regard of outward infirmities, that we might be made conformable to His Son (Romans 8:17), and so reign with Him, being first made suitable to the body.
2. In respect of outward and inward infirmities, both because God's glory is seen in our infirmities (2 Corinthians 12:7), His grace being sufficient to uphold us, and also in regard our weakness commends His strength, and our folly His wisdom.
3. Because He would draw us out of the earth, and have us hasten to accomplish the marriage and come away, therefore He sends us so many crosses, and so little rest in the flesh.
4. Because God would have us humble, patient and pitiful people, neither of which would be unless our state were imperfect; we would never know ourselves, our brethren and God, unless it were so, that on both sides we saw the prints of our imperfections.
II. THOUGH OUR ESTATE BE HERE IMPERFECT, YET WE MUST NOT BE DISCOURAGED.
1. We have a great and mighty deliverer. He loves His children in the midst of all their deformities.
2. He is able to help them in all estates; His grace is still sufficient, He hath present help. What needs the child be dismayed for pain when the Father can remove it at His pleasure?
3. The saints of God in all ages have gone through imperfections; they have been sick, poor, doubtful, passionate, as well as we. God hath brought them to heaven, to happiness, through all storms.
4. Uprightness may stand with imperfection, some gold may be amongst earth; as the Church shows here, beauty and deformity may stand together, some light, some darkness. Now God bids the upright hope, rejoice, says he is blessed (Psalm 23:6).
5. Because the effects of discouragement are too bad, as fretting (Psalm 42:11); yea, this doth not only keep Out praises, but causes neglect of all ordinances, drives from God, makes one fierce, envious, uncomfortable, impotent, etc.
III. THERE IS A GLORY AND EXCELLENCE IN THE SAINTS OF GOD IN THE MIDST OF ALL THEIR DEFORMITIES AND DEBASEMENTS. Indeed their glory is like Solomon's curtains, not obvious to every eye; like Kedar's tents, or a heap of wheat in the chaff, and outwardly base, but inwardly excellent.
1. Needs it must be so, for being converted, they obtain a new name (Revelation 2:17); yea, they, have this peculiar favour granted, as 1 John 3:1, to be called the "sons of God."
2. They have a new nature, being made partakers of the image of God, and so of the Divine nature; as it is (2 Peter 1:4).
3. They have a new estate; Christ Jesus makes them free, as John 8:35, and He makes them also rich, supplying all their wants with the riches of His glory (Psalm 4:3).
4. They have a new kindred and guide. God is their Father, they are members of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), they are "led by the Spirit of God." God dwelleth in them, and the Spirit of glory rests upon them even in affliction (1 Peter 4:14), and filleth them with glorious faith and precious graces.
(1) This first discovers a wonderful blindness in us, who can see no such matter in the saints of God.
(2) This is comfort to saints now and hereafter. Now they be glorious, but yet they are but in the way going to glory (Proverbs 4:18). If thus in their pilgrimage, what at home in their country? If thus, imperfect, what in perfection? If thus, in corruption, what when this corruption shall put on incorruption? And if thus, in mortality, what when mortality shall be swallowed up of life?
IV. WE MUST NOT STILL BE PORING INTO THE DEFORMITIES OF GOD'S CHURCH AND PEOPLE, like flies on galled places, or dogs upon garbage and raw flesh. For —
1. This is a practice which utterly crosseth God in His commandments, who chargeth us "not to despise the day of small things" (Zechariah 4:10).
2. This is quite against justice; for Christians have beauty as well as blackness, graces as well as corruptions.
3. This neither cometh from any good, nor worketh good. It ariseth from pride, ignorance, etc., and showeth that a man neither knows his own estate, nor God s proceedings with His people, who brings them to honour through baseness, and confounds the glory of the world with base things.
V. THEN GOD'S CHILDREN PAY FOR IT, WHEN THEY DO NOT THEIR OWN WORK, NOT KEEPING THEIR OWN STANDING. It is with them as soldiers and scholars, when they keep not their own places, and learn not their own lessons: they are met with on every side.
1. Because no man speeds well out of his own place, but Christians worst of all; as Proverbs 27:8, a thousand inconveniences befall to oneself, to his charge, when absent. God will be upon him, and leave him to himself, till he hath wound himself into woeful brakes.
2. Men will be upon his back, as Paul on Peter's, or else grow strange till he be humbled; but bad men they will curse him, all the hypocrites in the town will be at his heels.
3. The devil will be upon them, and having drawn them out of the way, will either still mislead them, or else cut their throats and steal all, or hold them, if possible he may, from returning unto God; as in the prodigal son.
4. Their own consciences will be upon them, and it is with them as with a child that plays truant, his heart throbs, he hath no peace: so a Christian, whether he prosper or not prospers, he hath no peace, he eats not, he sleeps not in peace.
( Sibbes, Richard.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.