Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Calvinist Theology of Christ, the Church, and Kisses

My mention of Bradwardine on kisses in the previous post reminded me of a commentary on the Song of Songs by James Durham (1622-1658), a Scottish Calvinist. Here is what Durham says on the subject of kisses:

Her great wish is, 'Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.' That it's the Bride that speaks, is clear; she begins, not because love ariseth first on her side (for here she begins, as having already closed with him, and therefore she speaks to him, as one who knows his worth, and longs for the out-lettings of his love) but because such expressions of Christ's love, as are to be found in this Song, whereby his complacency is vented and manifested toward us, doth first presuppose the working of his love in us, and our exercising of it on him, and then his delighting (that is, is expressing his delight) in us: for although the man first suit the wife (and so Christ first sueth for his bride) yet when persons are married, it's most suitable, that the wife should very pressingly long for, and express desire after the husband, even as the Bride doth here after Christ's kisses, and the expressions of his love. Of this order of Christ's love, see Chapter 8 verse 10.

In the words consider, 1. What she desires, and that is, the 'kisses of his mouth.' 2. How she points Christ forth, by this significant demonstrative, 'Him.' 3. Her abrupt manner of breaking out with this her desire, as one that had been dwelling on the thoughts of Christ, and feeding on his excellencey; and therefore now she breaks out, 'let him kiss me,' &c. as if her heart were at her mouth, or would leap out of her mouth, to meet with his.

First, by 'kisses', we understand most lovely, friendly, familiar and sensible manifestations of his love; kisses of the mouth are so amongst friends, so it was betwixt Jonathan and David, and so it is especially betwixt husband and wife.

Next, there are several delightsome circumstances, the heighten the Bride's this esteem of this, the so much desired expression of his love. The first is implied, in the person who is to kiss, it's 'him, let him kiss', He who is the most excellent and singular person in the world,. The second is hinted at in the party whom he is to kiss, it's 'me, let him kiss me,' a contemptible despicable creature; for so she was in herself, as appears from verse 5,6. Yet this is the person, this love is to be vented on. 3. Wherewith is he to kiss? It's with the 'kisses of his mouth;' which we conceive is not only added as an Hebraism, like that expression, 'the words of his mouth,' and such like phrases, but also to affect her self, by expressing fully what she breathed after, to wit, kisses, or love, which are is a more lovely to her, that they come from his mouth, as having a sweetness in it, (Chap. 5:16.) above any thing in the world. That Christ's love hath such a sweetness in it, the reason subjoined will clear, 'for thy love is,' &c. That which is here kisses, is immediately denominated Loves; it is his love that she prized, and whereof kisses were but evidences.

They are 'kisses' in the plural number, partly to shew how many ways Christ hath to manifest his love, partly to shew the continuance and frequency of these manifestations, which she would be at: And the thing which she here desires, is not love simply, but the sense of love; for she questions not his love, but desired to have a sensible expressions of it, and therefore compares it not only to looks, that she might see him, but to kisses; which is also clear from the reason annexed, while she compares his love to wine.

Durham goes on, of course, to discuss comely cheeks, lovesickness, and breasts like young roes in the same sober allegroical vein.


This is only loosely related, but I remembered that Giles of Rome uses kisses to describe the missions of the Trinity in his commentary on the Song of Songs. His claim is that just as in a kiss the corporeal spirit (breath) proceeds from the kisser through the mouth, so the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. So the Father is the osculans (kisser), the Son is the os (the thing one kisses with, namely, the mouth or, more broadly, the face), and the Spirit is the osculum (kiss). That's certainly not one of the analogies you usually hear.

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