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Friday, March 6, 2015

The Loveliness of Christ # 2

4. Christ is resembled to a ROCK. 1 Corinthians 10:4: "That Rock was Christ." He is a Rock in a threefold sense:
First, He is a rock of offense. A rock breaks the waves. The church, being built upon Christ—all the adversaries that come against her are like a ship coming full sail against a rock.
Second, He is a Rock for defense. The dove hides in the rock. Song of Solomon 2:14: "O my dove in the clefts of the rock." Christ's wounds are the clefts of the rock where the believing soul, this dove, hides itself!
Third, He is a rock for comfort. The rock is a screen to shade off the heat; so Christ is called in Isaiah 25:4, "a shade from the heat." He shades a poor sinner from the scorchings of God's wrath! Also, honey came out of the rock in Deuteronomy 32:13: "He made him to suck honey out of the rock—and oil out of the flinty rock." The honey of the promises—and the oil of gladness come out of this blessed Rock!
5. Christ is compared to a RIVER in a desert. "He will shelter Israel from the storm and the wind. He will refresh her as a river in the desert and as the cool shadow of a large rock in a hot and weary land." (Isaiah 32:2). When by nature we are as a scorched wilderness, dry and barren, Christ sends forth the sacred influences of His blood and Spirit, making us like the fields of Sharon—full of moisture and fertility! Are not these silver streams lovely!
6. Christ is resembled to a rich TREASURY. Riches are lovely in men's eyes. Ephesians 3:8 speaks of "the unsearchable riches of Christ." The angels can never dig to the bottom of this golden mine! Christ has the true monopoly, because He has those riches which are nowhere else to be found: the riches of His merit—and the riches of His Spirit. Christ has a partnership with His Father. John 16:15: "All that the Father has, is Mine." He is crowned with the riches of the Deity. Alexander had no regard for the kingdom of Macedonia when he heard of the riches of India. Just so, a Christian will in a manner despise all other riches—when he has Christ's riches (Philippians 3:8).
7. Christ is resembled to a beautiful ROBE. Isaiah 61:10: "He has covered me with the robe of righteousness." Christ's righteousness is a lovely robe; no robe of gold or ermine, with which kings are invested, is so honorable as this one. In this robe we shine as angels in God's eyes. The high priest's glorious vestments (Exodus 28:2)—the miter, the robe, the ephod of gold, and the breastplate of precious stones—did all serve to set out the beautiful garment of Christ's righteousness, with which a believer is adorned. Thus Christ appears lovely in these several resemblances, which can but faintly shadow out His beauty.
4. Christ's loveliness appears by His DEMONSTRATIONS. He is lovely in Himself—and He is lovely in the account of others.
A. He is lovely in HIMSELF—and that in five ways.
1. He is lovely in His person—as He is MAN. Psalm 45:2: "You are the most excellent of men." The Hebrew is emphatic, denoting excellency of beauty; for though it is said He had no loveliness (Isaiah 53:2), that was in regard of His afflictions, which so disfigured Him and, as it were, drew a veil over His glory. Yet certainly the person of Christ was incomparably fair, as Jerome and Chrysostom observe; and if His body on earth was so beautiful, what is it now in heaven! The apostle calls it a glorious body in Philippians 3:21. If Christ can make a lily of the field more beautiful than Solomon in all his glory, how lovely is He Himself? How white is that lily which grows in paradise?
2. Christ's person is lovely—as He is GOD-man. He may not unfitly be compared to Jacob's ladder, which reached from earth to heaven. Christ's human nature, which was the foot of the ladder, stood upon the earth; and His divine nature, which was the top of the ladder, reached to heaven. The Arians and Socinians deny His Godhead, as the Valentians do His manhood. If the Godhead is in Him, He must be God; but the Godhead shines in Him. Colossians 2:9: "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead."
To confirm us in this truth, let us consult with those Scriptures which clearly assert His Godhead:
1 Corinthians 8:6: "To us there is but one God the Father, of whom are all things—and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things."
When Philippians 2:6 uses the phrase "who, being in the form of God," this is as much, Basil said, as to exist in the essence of God.
1 Timothy 3:16: "God was manifest in the flesh."
1 John 5:20: "We are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God."
Besides these testimonies of Scripture which expressly assert the Godhead of Christ, it may be clearly demonstrated by those incommunicable attributes belonging to the Deity which are ascribed to Christ—and are the flowers of His crown: omnipotence (Hebrews 1:3); omniscience (Mark 2:8); omnipresence (Matthew 28:20); a power to seal pardons (Matthew 9:6); the giving of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7); co-equality with God the Father (Philippians 2:6) in both power (John 5:19, 21) and dignity (John 5:23).
Thus we see His Godhead proved; and as He is God-man, He is altogether lovely. He is the very picture of His Father's glory; therefore He is called the express image and character of His person in Hebrews 1:3. The very effigies and print of God's face are seen in Christ; the glory of God's wisdom, holiness, and mercy most transparently shine forth in Him—thus His person is lovely.
3. Christ is lovely in His DISPOSITION. A good nature is able to render deformity itself lovely. Christ is lovely not only in his complexion—but in His disposition. He is of a loving and merciful disposition, and in this sense may he called the delight of mankind. It is reported of Marcus Aurelius, the emperor, that he was of a most affable winning temper, given to clemency—and every day would set one hour apart to hear the causes of the poor. Thus Jesus Christ is of a most sweet disposition. He will not always chide (Psalm 103:9). He is inclined to show mercy to the penitent. He delights in mercy (Micah 7:18). He invites sinners to come to Him (Matthew 11:28). He begs them to be saved (2 Corinthians 5:20). He knocks at their hearts by His Spirit, until His head is filled with dew and His locks with the drops of the night (Revelation 3:20). If any poor soul accepts His offer, and arises and goes to Him—how Christ welcomes him. Christ makes the feast (Luke 15:23) and the angels make the music (verse 7). But if men will not receive the offers of grace, Christ grieves (Mark 3:5). He is like a judge who passes the sentence with tears in his eyes. Luke 19:41: "And when He was come near the city, He beheld it and wept." You can hear Christ saying, "Ah, sinners, I come to save you—but you put away salvation from you. I come with healing under My wings—but you bolt from your Physician. I would have you but open your hearts to receive Me and I will open heaven to receive you; but you will rather stay with your sins and die—than come to Me and live." Psalm 81:11: "My people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to Me." "Well, sinners, I will weep at your funerals." Oh, how lovely Christ is, in His disposition! He comes with His suppling oil to pour into sinners' wounds. He would gladly break their hearts with His mercies. He labors to overcome their evil with His good.
4. Christ is lovely in His SUFFERINGS when He makes expiation for our sins. But how can He be lovely in His sufferings? Lovely when He was buffeted, spat upon, and smeared with blood? Oh, yes! He was most lovely upon the cross—because then He showed most love to us. He bled love from every vein! His drops of blood were love-drops. The more bloody—the more lovely. The more Christ endured for us—the more dear He ought to be to us. Osorius, writing of the sufferings of Christ, said that the crown of thorns bored His head with seventy-two wounds; and Tully, when he speaks of the death of the cross, shows his rhetoric best by a silence: "What shall I say of His death?" Though he was a great orator, he lacked words to express it.
Nor did Christ only endure pain in His body—but agony in His soul. He conflicted with the wrath of God, which He could never have done if He had not been more than a man. We read that the altar of wood was overlaid with brass so that the fire on the altar might not consume the wood (Exodus 27:1-2). This altar was a type of Jesus Christ. The human nature of Christ, which was the wood, was covered with the divine nature, which was like brass, else the fire of God's wrath would have consumed it.
All that Christ suffered was in our stead (Isaiah 53:5). We ate the sour grapes—-and His teeth were set on edge. We climbed the tree, we stole the forbidden fruit—and Christ goes up the ladder of the cross and dies! Oh, how lovely ought a bleeding Savior to be in our eyes! Let us wear this blessed crucifix always in our heart."The cross of Christ," said Damascen, "is the golden key that opens paradise to us."
How beautiful Christ is upon the cross! The ruddiness of His blood—took away the redness of our guilt. How lovely are those wounds which wounded the red dragon! When this blessed Rock was smitten, water came out of it to cleanse us and blood to cheer us (1 John 5:6). "When Christ was on the cross," said Bernard, "then the vine was cut—and salvation came to us in the blood of the vine." Oh, how lovely is this bleeding Vine! Christ's crucifixion—is our coronation!
5. Christ is lovely in His GRACES which, as a divine embroidery, bespangled and set Him off in the eyes of the world. Grace was not in Christ as a quality—but as an essence, as light is intrinsic to the sun and is of the essence of it. Christ opened a box of precious perfume and, because of the fragrance of His ointments, the virgins love Him (Song of Solomon 1:3). In Christ there was a constellation of all the graces; how He shone in wisdom, humility, zeal, heavenly-mindedness, and, which did not adorn Him only a little little, meekness. How lovely was Christ in His graces!
He came into the world meek. Matthew 21:5: "Behold your King comes meek." He came not with a sword or scepter in His hand—but with an olive branch of peace in His mouth. He preached tidings of peace (Matthew 11:29). Though He was the Lion of Judah—yet He was the Lamb of God.
When He was in the world, He was a pattern of meekness. 1 Peter 2:23: "When He was reviled, He reviled not again." He left His Father's bosom, that hive of sweetness, to come and live here; and truly, He exchanged His palace for a dunghill. How often He was called a friend of sinners; nay, He was charged to have a devil. But. see how mildly He answered (this dove had no gall) in John 8:49: "I have no devil—but I honor My Father." All His words were steeped in honey.
When He was going out of the world, He showed unparalleled meekness. He prayed for His enemies, "Father forgive them" (Luke 23:34). When the soldiers came to take Him by force, one would have thought that He would have called for fire from heaven, as the man of God did in 2 Kings 1:10. But, behold, grace was poured into His lips (Psalm 45:2). See what a mild answer He gave, enough to have made the hardest heart relent. Matthew 26:55: "Am I some dangerous criminal, that you have come armed with swords and clubs to arrest Me?" It is as if He had said, "What wrong, I ask, have I done to you? What have I stolen from the world—but their sins? What have I robbed them of—but the wrath of God?" Oh, the mildness of this Savior! Surely, had not the soldiers' hearts been very hard (for in the whole story of Christ's passion I do not read of one soldier converted; there was a thief indeed converted—but no soldier), Christ's meekness would have melted them into tears of repentance.
When He was led away to be crucified—He went as a lamb to the slaughter. "He opened not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7). He opened His side—but not His mouth in repining. And was not Christ lovely in His meekness? No wonder the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the likeness of a Dove; not a lion or eagle—but a Dove, which is the emblem of meekness.
6. Christ is lovely in His CONDUCT. What was said of Saul and Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1:23 ("they were lovely in their lives") is much more true of Christ. "His life," said Chrysostom, "was purer than the sunbeams." All the ethics of Aristotle and all the wisdom of Greece, could never describe virtue as it was livelily portrayed out in Christ's holy example. He is called "a Lamb without spot" (1 Peter 1:19). His lips never spoke a word amiss. Luke 4:22: "All bore Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth." Thus were His lips like lilies, dripping pure myrrh (Song of Solomon 5:13). His foot never tread a step awry. He who was a way to others—never went out of the way Himself. He was so pure, that no temptation could fasten upon Him. Temptation to Christ was like throwing a burr upon a crystal glass, which will not stick—but glides off. "The prince of this world comes and has no power over Me" (John 14:30). There was no powder for the devil's fire to take. What was Christ's whole life—but a pattern of good works? "He went about doing good" (Acts 10:38). He was either anointing the blind, healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching, or working miracles. Thus He was altogether lovely.
B. And then Christ is lovely in the account of OTHERS. He is lovely to God His Father, lovely to the saints—and lovely to the angels.
1. He is lovely to God His Father. God is infinitely delighted with Him. Christ is called "the Rose of Sharon," and how God delights to smell this rose! Isaiah 42:1: "My Chosen One in whom My soul delights." Surely if there is loveliness enough in Christ to delight the heart of God, there may well be enough in Him to delight us. Christ is the center, where all the lines of His Father's love do meet.
2. Christ is lovely in the account and esteem of His saints. 2 Thessalonians 1:10: "He shall admired by all those who have believed." He is admired now—and He shall be more admired by them. Well may the saints admire to see Christ sitting in the bright robe of their flesh above the angels in glory. Well may they admire to see their nature united with the Deity. Oh, how lovely and beautiful is this sight! Well may Christ be admired by His saints.
3. Christ is lovely in the esteem of the angels. They adore Him. Hebrews 1:6: "And let all the angels of God worship Him." The cherubim are painted with their faces looking upwards, to show that the angels in heaven all are still looking upward, admiring and being ravished with the amazing beauties of Jesus Christ.
APPLICATION
A. Information. There are three branches:
Branch 1. Behold here, as in a Scripture glass—the transcendent excellencies of the Lord Jesus! "He is altogether lovely." He is a lovely prospect set before us. I do not wonder that Paul, that seraphic saint, desired to know nothing, but Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2). What else would He want to know? He is altogether lovely; no wonder then that the apostles left all—and followed Him (Matthew 19:27). Had I the tongues of angels, I could never set forth Christ in all His lively and lovely colors. Besides what has been said, take a further view of Christ's lovely excellencies in three particulars:
1. Christ is our LIGHT. Light is a glorious creation (Ecclesiastes 11:7). Truly the light is sweet; the light pulls off the veil and draws aside the dark curtains of the night, making everything appear in its fresh colors. Thus Jesus Christ is lovely. He is called that true light (John 1:9) and the bright and morning star (Revelation 22:16). When the soul is darkened with ignorance, Christ is the morning star that enlightens it. He is the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2).
This Sun of Righteousness is more glorious than the sun in the sky. The sun in the firmament rises and sets—but the Sun of Righteousness, once it rises upon the soul in conversion, never sets finally upon him. It may pull in its beams when the clouds of our sin come between—but it comes out of the cloud again (as it did to David) and never sets finally. The sun in the sky only shines upon us—but the Sun of Righteousness shines within us. Galatians 1:16: "But when it pleased God to reveal His Son in me." The sun in the sky shines only upon our faces—but the Sun of Righteousness shines in our hearts. 2 Corinthians 4:6: "God has shined in our hearts." And how sweet are these beams! The sun in the sky shines only in the daytime—but the Sun of Righteousness shines in the night; in the night of spiritual desertion and affliction, this Sun shines. Psalm 112:4: "Unto the upright there arises light in darkness." Oh, how lovely in this Sun of Righteousness! By the bright beams of this Sun, we see God.
2. Christ is our FOOD. He is not only lovely to the eye—but to the taste. John 6:55: "My flesh is food indeed." This is princely fare; it was never prepared for the angels—but for us. It is lovely feeding here; all the rarities of heaven are served in this dish!
"And My blood is drink indeed." This blood is better than wine. Wine may be taken in excess. Noah took too much of the wine of the grape—but it is otherwise with the wine of Christ's blood; there is no fear of excess here. Though a drop is sweet—yet the more we drink, the better; the deeper, the sweeter! Drink, yes, drinkabundantly, O beloved. Excess here makes us sober!
Wine, though it cheers the heart—yet at some times, if it is taken, it may be harmful. Give wine in a fever—and it is as bad as poison. But this wine of Christ's blood is best in a fever. When the heart burns as hot as hell in the sense of God's wrath, and, as it were, in a spiritual agony and fever—then a drop of Christ's blood allays the inflammation—and sweetly refreshes the soul. It is lovely drinking at this Fountain!
3. Christ is our LIFE. Colossians 3:4: "When Christ who is our life shall appear." Life is sweet; life makes everything comfortable. In this the devil said truly, "skin for skin, yes, all that a man has will he give for his life" (Job 2:4). A man will cast his jewels overboard to save his life; he will lose a leg or an arm to preserve the vital parts. Is life lovely—and is not Christ, who is our life, lovely?
He was typified by the tree of life in the garden (Genesis 2:9). That tree was symbolic, as Augustine said; it was a pledge and sign of life—if man had continued in obedience. It was certainly a lovely tree—but it was only a type of Christ, who is called "the tree of life" in Revelation 2:7. This tree of life, the Lord Jesus, is a better tree than that which grew in paradise. Adam's tree in paradise might preserve life—but it could not prevent death; there was dying for all that. But this tree of life, Jesus Christ, prevents death. John 11:26: "Whoever believes in Me shall never die," that is—not die the second death spoken of in Revelation 20:14. This blessed tree is an antidote against death. If there were a tree to be found in the world that could preserve men from dying, how far would they go on pilgrimage to reach it? What vast sums of money would they give for one leaf of that tree? Such a tree is Christ—He will keep you from dying! And is not this tree very lovely?
In particular, there is a threefold life flowing from Jesus Christ:
There is a life of GRACE. John 1:16: "We have all received grace after grace from His fullness." This life of grace, is a bud of eternity; it is a life purchased for us by Christ's death.
There is a life of COMFORT, which is the cream of life. John 16:22: "Your heart shall rejoice." This is a holy jubilation of spirit; so sweet and ravishing is this joy that if David, when he had lost his joy had lost also his crown, and God had put the question to him which of these two he would have restored, David would have said, "Lord, restore unto me the joy of Your salvation" (Psalm 51:12).
There is also a life of GLORY. (John 17:22). This is the most noble life; this is to live the life of angels, nay, to live the life of God! It is the highest elevation and perfection of the reasonable creature. And may we not cry out with Chrysostom, "What is more lovely than Christ, from whom these golden streams of life flow!"Oh, that all this might make Him amiable in our eyes!
What else should we admire? What should we rejoice in, but Christ? Christ's beauty, like His coat, is without seam. We read of Absalom (2 Samuel 14:25) that in all Israel there was none to be so praised as Absalom for his beauty; from the sole of his foot, even to the crown of his head, there was no blemish in him. This may be far more truly applied to Christ. He is the mirror of beauty, the map of perfection, the paradise of delight! He is the crown of the gospel. If the gospel is the field—Christ is the pearl hidden in the field. If the gospel is the ring—Christ is the diamond in this ring. He is the glory of heaven. Revelation 21:23: "The Lamb is the light thereof." Well might Paul account all things dross and dung, for Christ (Philippians 3:8).

Branch 2. If Christ is altogether lovely, it shows us the true reason why men do not embrace Christ, namely, because they are ignorant of His beauty. A blind man does not admire the colors in a rainbow; and when the god of this world has blinded men's eyes—they do not see any excellency in Christ. Therefore they cry out, as the watchmen did, "What is your Beloved more than another beloved?" Men do not admire the sun—because the cloud of their ignorance comes between. Christ is a treasure—but a hidden treasure. He is more lovely than the children of men—but to a natural person He is like Moses, with a veil upon His face. The men of the world do not see the stupendous beauty of Christ. He does not lack worth—but they lack eyes! "O unhappy man," said Augustine, "who knows all things—but Christ! Your knowledge will but serve to light you to hell."

~Thomas Watson~

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