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The Best Beloved

Written by: Spurgeon, C.H.    Posted on: 04/07/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN



                                                                                 

                                              The Best Beloved



                                                        A Sermon                                                       (No. 1446)                                                       Delivered by                                                   C. H. SPURGEON,                                     At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington



              "Yea, he is altogether lovely."Solomon's Song 5:16.

                    NO WORDS can ever express the gratitude we owe to Him who loved us even when we were dead in                     trespasses and sins: the love of Jesus is unutterably precious and worthy of daily praise. No songs can                     ever fitly celebrate the triumphs of that salvation which he wrought singlehanded on our behalf: the work                     of Jesus is glorious beyond compare, and all the harps of angels fall short of its worthy honour. Yet I do                     believe, and my heart prompts me to say so, that the highest praise of every ransomed soul and of the           entire Christian church should be offered to the blessed person of Jesus Christ, our adorable Lord. The love of his           heart is excelled by the heart which gave forth that love, and the wonders of his hand are outdone by the hand           itself, which wrought those godlike miracles of grace. We ought to bless him for what he has done for us as           Mediator in the place of humble service under the law, and for what he suffered for us as Substitute on the altar of           sacrifice from before the foundation of the world; and for what he is doing for us as Advocate in the place of           highest honour at the right hand of the Majesty on high: but still the best thing about Christ is Christ himself. We           prize his, but we worship him. His gifts are valued, but he himself is adored. While we contemplate, with mingled           feelings of awe, admiration, and thankfulness, his atonement, his resurrection, his glory in heaven, and his second           coming, still it is Christ himself, stupendous in his dignity as the Son of God, and superbly beautiful as the Son of           man, who sheds an incomparable charm on all those wonderful achievements, wherein his might and his merit, his           goodness and his grace appear so conspicuous. For him let our choicest spices be reserved, and to him let our           sweetest anthems be raised. Our choicest ointment must be poured upon his head, and for his own self alone our           most costly alabaster boxes must be broken.               "He is altogether lovely." Not only is his teaching attractive, his doctrine persuasive, his life irreproachable, his           character enchanting, and his work a self-denying labour for the common good of all his people, but he himself is           altogether lovely. I suppose at first we shall always begin to love him because he first loved us, and even to the last           his love to us will always be the strongest motive of our affection towards him; still there ought to be added to this           another reason less connected with ourselves, and more entirely arising out of his own superlative excellence; we           ought to love him because he is lovely and deserves to be loved. The time should come, and with some of us it           has come, when we can heartily say "we love him because we cannot help it, for his all-conquering loveliness has           quite ravished our hearts." Surely it is but an unripe fruit to love him merely for the benefits which we have           received at his hand. It is a fruit of grace, but it is not of the ripest flavour; at least, there are other fruits, both new           and old, which we have laid up for thee, O our beloved, and some of them have a daintier taste. There is a sweet           and mellow fruit which can only be brought forth by the summer sun of fellowshiplove because of the           Redeemer's intrinsic goodness and personal sweetness. Oh that we might love our Lord for his own sake, love him           because he is so supremely beautiful that a glimpse of him has won our hearts, and made him dearer to our eyes           than light. Oh that all true and faithful disciples of our beloved Lord would press forward towards that state of           affection, and never rest till they reach it! If any of you have not reached it, you need not therefore doubt your           own safety, for whatever the reason why you love Jesus, if you love him at all, it is a sure pledge and token that           he loves you, and that you are saved in him with an everlasting salvation. Still covet earnestly the best gifts, and           rise to the highest degree of devotion,. Love as the purest of the saints have loved; love as John the apostle loved,           for still your Lord exceeds all the loving homage you can pay to him. Love his person, love himself; for he is           better than all that he has done or given; and as from himself all blessings flow, so back to himself should all love           return.               Our text tells us that Christ is altogether lovely. What a wealth of thought and feeling is contained in that           exclamation! I am embarrassed to know how to preach on such a subject, and half inclined to wish it had not been           laid so much upon my heart. What, I pray you, what is loveliness? To discern it is one thing, but it is quite another           thing to describe it. There is not one amongst us but knows how to appreciate beauty, and to be enamoured of its           attractions, but how many here could tell us what it is? Stand up, my brother, and define it. Perhaps while you           were sitting down you thought you could easily tell the tale, but now you are on your feet you find that it is not           quite so easy to clothe in words the thoughts which floated through your brain. What is beauty? Cold-blooded           word-mongers answer, fitness. And certainly there is fitness in all loveliness. But do not tell me that beauty is mere           fitness, for I have seen a world of fitness in this world which, nevertheless, seemed to me to be inexpressibly ugly           and unlovable. A wise man tells me that beauty is proportion; but neither is this a full description by many a           league. No doubt it is desirable that the features should be well balanced; the eyes should be fitly set, no one           feature should be exaggerated, and none should be dwarfed.

                                              "In nature what affects our hearts,                                               Is not th' exactness of peculiar parts;                                               'Tis not a lip or eye we beauty call,                                             But the joint force and full result of all."

          Harmony is beauty. Yet I have seen the chiselled marble, fashioned with skilful art into a well-nigh perfect form,           which did not, could not, impress me with a sense of loveliness. There stands in one of the halls of the Vatican a           statue of Antinous. Every feature in that statue is perfect in itself, and in complete harmony with all the rest. You           could not find the slightest fault with eye or nose or mouth. It is indeed as much the ideal of male beauty as the           Venus is of female charms, yet no one could ever have been enchanted with the statue, or have felt affection to           the form which it represents. There is no expression whatever in the features. Everything is so adjusted and           proportioned that you want a divergence to relieve you. The materialism is so carefully measured out that there           needs a stir, a break in the harmony to give at least some semblance of a soul. Beauty, then, consists not in mere           harmony, nor in balancing the features.               Loveliness surely is attractiveness. Yes, but that is another way of saying you do not know what it is. It is a           something that attracts you, and constrains you to exclaim, "Nought under heaven so strongly doth allure." We feel           its power, we become its slaves; but we cannot write with pen of cold steel, nor could we write even with a pen of           lightning, a description of what it is. How, then, can Ienamoured, entranced, enraptured as I am with him whom           my soul lovethhow can I speak of him? He is altogether lovely? Where shall I find words, terms, expressions           that shall fitly set him forth? Unless the Eternal Spirit shall upraise me out of myself I must for ever be incapable           of setting forth the Well-beloved.               Besides, were I baffled by nothing else, there is this, that the beauty of Christ is mysterious. It surpasses all           the comeliness of human form. He may have had great beauty according to the flesh. That I cannot tell, but I           should imagine that such a perfect soul as his must have inhabited a perfectly molded body. Never yet did you or I           gaze with satisfaction upon the work of any painter who has tried to picture our Lord Jesus Christ. We have not           blamed the great masters, but we have felt that the effort surpassed their powers. How could they photograph the           sun? The loftiest conceptions of great artists in this case fall far short of the mark. When the brightness of the           Father's glory is the subject the canvas glows in vain. Art sits at her easel and produces diligently many a draught           of the sacred features; but they are all failures, and they must be. Who shall ever depict Immanuel, God-with-us? I           suppose that, by-and-by, when our Lord had entered upon his active life, and encountered its struggles, his           youthful beauty was marred with lines of sadness and sorrow. Still his courage so overshadowed his cares, the           mercy he showed so surpassed the misery he shared, and the grace he dispensed so exceeded the griefs that he           carried, that a halo of real glory must ever have shone around his brow. His countenance must still have been           lovely even when surrounded with the clouds of care and grief. How can we describe even the marred visage? It is           a great mystery, but a sure fact, that in our Lord's marred countenance his beauty is best seen. Anguish gave him a           loveliness which else he had not reached. His passion put the finishing touch upon his unrivalled loveliness.               But, brethren, I am not about to speak of Christ's loveliness after the flesh, for now after the flesh know we           him no more. It is his moral and spiritual beauty, of which the spouse in the song most sweetly says, "Yea, he is           altogether lovely." The loveliness which the eye dotes on is mere varnish when compared with that which dwells           in virtue and holiness; the worm will devour the loveliness of skin and flesh, but a lovely character will endure for           ever.               I. THIS IS RARE PRAISE. Let that be our first head. This is rare praise. What if I say it is unique? For of no           other being could it be said, "Yea, he is altogether lovely."               It means, first, that all that is in him is lovely, perfectly lovely. There is no point in our Lord Jesus that you           could improve. To paint the rose were to spoil its ruddy hue. To tint the lily, for he is lily as well as rose, were to           mar its whiteness. Each virtue in our Lord is there in a state of absolute perfection: it could not be more fully           developed. If you were able to conceive of each virtue at its ripest stage it would be found in him. In the matter of           transparent ingenuousness and sterling honesty, did ever man speak or act so truthfully as he? Ask, on the other           hand, for sympathizing tenderness and love, was ever any so gentle as Jesus? Do you want reverence to God?           how he bows before the Father. Do you want boldness before men? how he beards the Pharisees. You could not           better anything which you find in Jesus. Wherever you shall cast your eye it may rest with satisfaction, for the best           of the best of the best is to be seen in him. He is altogether lovely at every separate point, so that the spouse,           when she began with his head, descended to his feet, and then lifting her eyes upward again upon a return voyage           of delight, she looked into his countenance and summed up all that she had seen in this one sentence, "He is           altogether lovely." This is rare praise.               And he is all that is lovely. In each one of his people you will find something that is lovely,in one there is           faith, in another abounding love; in one tenderness, in another courage, but you do not find all good things in any           one saintat least not all of them in full perfection; but you find all virtues in Jesus, and each one of them at its           best. If you would take the best quality of one saint, and the best quality of anotheryea, the best out of each and           all the myriads of his people, you would find no grace or goodness among them all which Jesus does not possess           in the fullest degree and in the highest perfection. He combines all the virtues, and gives them all a sweetness over           and beyond themselves. In flowers you have a separate beauty belonging to each; no one flower is just like           another, but each one blushes with its own loveliness: but in our Lord these separate and distinct beauties are           found united in one. Christ is the posy in which all the beauties of the garden of perfection are bound up. Each           gem has its own radiance: the diamond is not like the ruby, nor the ruby like the emerald; but Christ is that ring in           which you have sapphire, ruby, diamond, emerald, set in choice order, so that each one heightens the other's           brilliance. Look not for anything lovely out of Jesus, for he has all the loveliness. All perfections are in him making           up one consummate perfection; and all the loveliness which is to be seen elsewhere is but a reflection of his own           unrivalled charms.               In Jesus Christthis, moreover, is rare praise againthere is nothing that is unlovely. You have a friend           whom you greatly admire and fondly esteem, of whom, nevertheless, I doubt not you have often said to yourself           in undertone, "I wish I could take away a little of the rough edge of his manners here and there." You never           thought that of Christ. You have observed of one man that he is so bold as to be sometimes rude; and of another           that he is so bland and amiable that he is apt to be effeminate. You have said, "That sweetness of his is           exceedingly good, but I wish that it were qualified with sterner virtues." But there is nothing to tone down or alter           in our divine Lord. He is altogether lovely. Have you not sometimes in describing a friend been obliged to forget,           or omit, some rather prominent characteristic when you wished to make a favourable impression? You have had           to paint him as the artist once painted Oliver Cromwell; the great wart over the eyebrow was purposely left out of           the portrait. Cromwell, you know, said, "Paint me as I am, or not at all." We have, however, often felt that it was           kind to leave out the warts when we were talking of those we esteemed, and to whom we would pay a graceful           tribute. But there is nothing to leave out in Christ, nothing to hold back, or to guard, or to extenuate. In him is           nothing redundant, nothing overgrown. He is altogether lovely. You never need put the finger over the scar in his           case, as Apelles did when he painted his hero. No; tell it all out: reveal the details of his private life and secret           thoughts, they need no concealment. Lay bare the very heart of Christ, for that is the essence of love and           loveliness. Speak of his death-wounds, for in his scars there is more beauty than in the uninjured comeliness of           another: and even when he lies dead in the tomb he is more comely than the immortal angels of God at their best           estate. Nothing about our Lord needs to be concealed; even his cross at which his enemies stumble, is to be daily           proclaimed, and it will be seen to be one of his choicest beauties.               Frequently, too, in commending a friend whom you highly appreciated, you have been prone to ask for           consideration of his position, and to make excuse for blemishes which you would fain persuade us are less actual           than apparent. You have remarked how admirable he acts considering his surroundings. Conscious that someone           would hint at an imperfection, you have anticipated the current of conversation by alluding to the circumstances           which rendered it so hard for your friend to act commendably. You have felt the need of showing that others           influenced him, or that infirmity restrained him. Did you ever feel inclined to apologize for Christ? Did he not           always stand unbending beneath life's pressure, upright and unmoved amidst the storms and tempests of an evil           world? The vilest calumnies have been uttered against him, in the age just past which produced creatures similar to           Thomas Paine, but they never required an answer; and as for the more refined attacks of our modern skepticism,           they are for the most part unworthy even of contempt. They fall beneath the glance of truth, withered by the           glance of the eye of honesty. We never feel concerned to vindicate the character of Jesus; we know it to be safe           against all comers. No man has been able to conjure up an accusation against Jesus. They seek false witnesses, but           their testimony agrees not together. The sharp arrows of slander fall blunted from the shield of his perfectness.           Oh, no; he is altogether lovely in this sensethat there is nothing whatever in him that is not lovely. You may           look, and look, and look again, but there is nothing in him that will not bear scrutiny world without end. Taking the           lord Jesus Christ as a wholethis is what our text intends to tell ushe is inexpressibly lovelyaltogether lovely.           The words are packed as tightly as they can be, but the meaning is greater than the words. Some translate the           passage "He is all desires," and it is a good translation too, and contains a grand truth. Christ is so lovely that all           you can desire of loveliness is in him; and even if you were to sit down and task your imagination and burden your           understanding to contrive, to invent, to fashion the ideal of something that should be inimitableay (to utter a           paradox) if you could labour to conceive something which should be inconceivably lovely, yet still you would not           reach to the perfection of Christ Jesus. He is above, not only all we think, but all we dream of.               Do you all believe this? Dear hearers, do you think of Jesus in this fashion? We speak that we do know, and           testify that we have seen. But no man among you will receive our witness until he can say, "I also have seen him,           and having seen him, I set to my seal that he is altogether lovely."               II. And now, secondly, as this is rare praise, so likewise IT IS PERPETUAL PRAISE. You may say of Christ           whenever you look at him, "Yea, he is altogether lovely." He always was so. As God over all, he is blessed for           ever, Amen. When in addition to his godhead, he assumed our mortal clay, was he not inimitably lovely then? The           babe in Bethlehem was the most beautiful sight that ever the world beheld. No fairer flower ever bloomed in the           garden of creation than the mind of that youth of Nazareth gradually unfolding, as he "grew, and waxed strong in           spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him." All the while he lived on earth, what moral           perfections, what noble qualities, what spiritual charms were about his sacred person! His life among men is a           succession of charming pictures. And he was lovely in his bitter passion, when as the thick darkness           overshadowed his soul he prayed, in an agony of desire, "Not my will, but thine, be done." The bloody sweat did           not disfigure, but adorn him. And oh, was he not lovely when he died? Without resentment he interceded for his           murderers. His patience, his self-possession, his piety, as "the faithful martyr," have fixed as the meridian of time           the hour when he said, "It is finished," and "bowed his head," and "cried with a loud voice, Father, into thy hands           I commend my spirit." He is lovely in his resurrection from the dead; beyond description lovely. Not a word of           accusation did he utter against his cruel persecutors, though he had risen clothed with all power in heaven and in           earth. With such tender sympathy did he make himself known to his sorrowing disciples, that despite the           waywardness of their unbelief their hearts' instinct told them it was the same Jesus." He is altogether lovely.               He will be lovely when he comes with solemn pomp, and sound of trumpet, and escort of mighty angels, and           brings all his saints who have departed with him, and calls up those that are alive and remain on the earth till his           advent, to meet him in the air. Oh, how lovely he will appear to the two throngs who will presently join in one           company! How admirable will his appearance be! How eyes, ears, hearts and voices will greet him! With what           unanimity the host redeemed by blood will account their highest acclamations as a trivial tribute to his honour and           glory! "He is altogether lovely." Yea, and he shall be lovely for ever and ever when your eyes and mine shall           eternally find their heaven in beholding him. "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever," is always           worthy of this word of praise"altogether lovely."               Let us retrace our steps for a minute. The more we study the four gospels, the more charmed we are with the           gospel; for as a modern author has well said, "The gospels, like the gospel, are most divine because they are most           human." As followers of Jesus, rank yourselves with those men who companied with him all the time that he went           in and out among them; and you shall find him lovely in all conditions. Lovely when he talks to a leper, and           touches and heals him; lovely by the bedside when he takes the fever-stricken patient by the hand and heals her;           lovely by the wayside, when he greets the blind beggar, puts his finger on his eyes and bids him see; lovely when           he stands on the sinking vessel and rebukes the waves; lovely when he meets the bier and rekindles the life that           had expired; lovely when he visits the mourners, goes with the sisters of Bethany to the new-made grave, and           weeps, and groans, andmajestically lovelybids the dead come forth. Lovely is he when he rides through the           streets of Jerusalem upon a colt, the foal of an ass. Oh, had we been there, we would have plucked the palm           branches, and we would have taken off our garments to strew the way. Hosannah, lovely Prince of Peace! But he           was just as lovely when he came from the garden with his face all besmeared with bloody sweat; just as lovely           when they said, "Crucify him, crucify him;" just as lovely, and if possible more so, when down those sacred           cheeks there dripped the cursed spittle from the rough soldiers' mouths; ay, and loveliest, to my eyes loveliest of           all, when mangled, wounded, fainting, bruised, dying, he said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"           uttering a plaintive cry of utmost grief from the felon's gibbet whereon he died. Yea, view him where you will, in           any place soever, is he notI speak to you who know him, and not to those who never saw him with the eye of           faithis he not, in the night and in the day, on the sea and on the land, on earth and in heaven, altogether lovely?               He is lovely in all his offices. What an entrancing sight to see the king in his beauty, with his diadem upon his           head, as he now sits in yonder world of brigh

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