The Loveliness of Christ!
From Timeless Grace Gems
William Bacon Stevens
"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16
Excellence, either mental, moral or physical — will always command attention. We are so constituted as to admire, almost instinctively, whatever is virtuous, or lovely, or of good report; and the nearer man approaches to God, the greater will be the admiration which such a character will elicit. In vain, however, do we search among men for even one example of perfect excellence in all the attributes of humanity. We can find those who have been distinguished for some one or more excellencies; who have manifested a large philanthropy, or profound humility, or unswerving honor, or heroic devotion, or exulted patriotism, or expansive benevolence; but one cannot be found who embodied in himself all these perfections in full and symmetrical proportion.
Yet our text tells us of one who is "altogether lovely;" in whom every virtue dwelt, every excellence met, every glory was manifested; and we can certainly be at no loss to designate the being who merits this title, as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But this is mere assertion — let us now to the proof. This proof, however, naturally arranges itself under two heads, corresponding to the two natures of Jesus Christ, human and divine; and our attention, therefore, must first be given to the human excellencies of Jesus.
But before we can rightly estimate his human character, we must take into consideration the many disadvantages which, in a worldly point of view, tended to cramp his powers, and dwarf his virtues. He had, for example, no advantages of birth; for his reputed parents were so poor, that he was born in a stable. He had no advantages of education in the Jewish schools, for the Rabbis themselves, astonished at his words, exclaim, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?" He had no advantages of society, for he dwelt in the crude district of Galilee, and in the lowly town of Nazareth; and his character in its forming stage, was acted upon only by the harsh influences of base and uneducated men. He had no advantages of profession; he was not a Scribe, or a Priest, or a Levite, or a Pharisee, or a Sadducee, to claim affinity with any of these powerful classes, and by them to be lifted up into notice and influence. He had no advantages of companionship; the first thirty years of his life were spent among the mechanics and peasants of Nazareth; and when he entered upon his mission, he chose as his friends, not the titled and the learned and the powerful — but the brawny sunburnt fisherman, and the outcast publicans. If, then, from any human character you subtract the advantages conferred by birth, rank, education, companionship, wealth, and influence — how little will remain as a basis upon which to erect a broad and elevated superstructure of greatness! But from the character of Jesus these must all be removed; and not only so — but they must be regarded as antagonizing elements, tending to break him down and destroy his influence.
In considering the positive elements of Christ's character, we shall look at him first in PRIVATE life. How simple and frugal in his habits! his ordinary diet seems to have been bread and fish; his journeyings were all on foot, except his last entry into Jerusalem; his lodging uncertain, the casual accommodation provided by friends, themselves poor and needy. He was modest, and seemed to shrink from the intrusive gaze of the populace. Not a jest or slander ever escaped his lips; purity, propriety, and holiness — reigned over every hour of his retirement, and the finger of malice could not point to a single stain or error in his entire private life.
Look at him in PUBLIC life — his characteristic work was "going about doing good." His benevolence knew no bounds, it gushed out in every act, and virtue went out from the very "hem of his garment." At his touch, thousands of sufferers languishing in disease took up their beds and walked; at his word the blind saw, the deaf heard, the dumb spoke, the maimed were made whole, and the dead came back to life and health. The whole ministry of Jesus was a ministry of philanthropy — full of sympathy, full of compassion, full of love. Where can we find him, that he is not doing good or planning good to his fellow men?
Look at him among his friends! He never lowered himself to anything base or ignoble; he never trifled, boasted, or deceived; he had no pride or vanity, no weakness or foible. Though poor — he never coveted riches; though humbly born — he never sought to mingle with the great; he practiced no arts to win and retain his friends; and held out no lures — but spiritual ones, to the multitudes who resorted to him for instruction and discipleship.
Look at him among his enemies! He is calm, self-possessed, void of malice, and majestic in the simplicity of his own goodness and truth. We see no cringing to power, no dalliance with popular feeling, no timidity, no yielding up of truth; but he stood among them in that attitude of conscious virtue, and poised benignity — superlatively grand. No passion tinged his cheek with the red spot of anger; no malice roughened into ridges his serene brow. Composed amidst the wildest tumult, submissive to grossest insults, meek under the most demoniacal mockings — "he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is silent before his shearers, so he opened not his mouth." Silent, indeed, to man! but not speechless to God, for when nailed to his cross, when torn with the death throes of crucifixion his lips move — he speaks, and as we listen we hear — no murmur — no reviling — no reproach — but the words of prayer — prayer not for himself — not for his disciples — not for his mother — but for his enemies; and the supplication is, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Look at him as a teacher! His doctrines are the most holy, interesting, and sublime, that ever fell from the lips of man. They were designed to revolutionize the world — and they will revolutionize the world. Yet with what plainness and simplicity did he deliver them! By the wayside, on the seashore, in the house, around the festive table, in the courts of the temple, and on the grassy mount. A beautiful parable, a touching allegory, a delicate comparison, an axiomatic sentence, an exposition in the synagogue, a night talk with Nicodemus, or a parting conversation with his disciples — were the vehicles of his mighty truths. We observe no magisterial airs, nothing dogmatic or pragmatic — but all comes out in the natural incidents of daily interaction, and with a simplicity worthy of a heavenly mind.
Look at him in his MENTAL characteristics. He possessed every element of mental greatness and loveliness. His teaching evidenced his divine wisdom. His interactions with various men and sects displayed his judgment. His controversies with the Scribes and Pharisees, and Sadducees, and Herodians, evinced the strength and acumen of his reason. His exhaustless fund of illustration, his ready subsidizing to his use of all nature, manifested his knowledge. And his gigantic scheme of reconciling God and man, embracing as it did two worlds, running backwards to creation's dawn, and forward through all eternity — show the breadth and stature of his peerless intellect.
"The ingredients of genuine human greatness undoubtedly are true wisdom, strength of soul, an invincible will, and an expansive benevolence." Combine these, and you make one altogether lovely. Such was Jesus Christ. He possessed . . .
wisdom unalloyed by a single folly;
strength of mind unimpaired by a single weakness;
calmness and serenity of soul that never, in his darkest hour, forsook him;
and a singleness of aim and firmness of purpose, that knew no shadow of turning.
"A soul full of wisdom, calmly reposing on its own greatness, working out a great scheme of future good, and patiently biding the day of its triumph amidst everything to thwart and discourage, is one of the sublimest manifestations of the human mind."
But you may say that this is a character of Christ drawn by one of his professed followers; well, then, let me give it to you as drawn by a profligate infidel, who, writing of Jesus Christ, uses these remarkable words: "What sweetness! what purity in his manners! what affecting grace in his instructions! what elevation in his maxims! what profound wisdom in his discourses! what presence of mind, what delicacy, what justness in his replies! what government of his passions! where is the man, where is the philosopher who knows how to act, to suffer, and to die without weakness, and without ostentation? The death of Socrates severely philosophizing with his friends, is the most gentle that one can desire. That of Jesus expiring in torments, injured, derided, reviled by a whole people, is the most horrible that one can fear. Yet, if the life and death of Socrates are those of a philosopher — then the life and death of Jesus Christ are those of a God." Thus wrote Rousseau, and such is the testimony of one of Jesus' most daring blasphemers and licentious enemies.
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