John Flavel who lived (as though there is some other century in this blog) in the seventeenth century was an English Presbyterian minister. Some of his works are still extant, most particularly his sermons. There are many very beautiful things in them. But I often think about this one sermon, and I am over and over again carried away by the beauty and truth of what Flavel teaches us.
from "Christ Altogether Lovely"
Let us consider this excellent expression, and particularly reflect on what is contained in it, and you shall find this expression "altogether lovely."
First, It excludes all unloveliness and disagreeableness from Jesus Christ. As a theologian long ago said, "There is nothing in him which is not loveable." The excellencies of Jesus Christ are perfectly exclusive of all their opposites; there is nothing of a contrary property or quality found in him to contaminate or devaluate his excellency. And in this respect Christ infinitely transcends the most excellent and loveliest of created things. Whatsoever loveliness is found in them, it is not without a bad aftertaste. The fairest pictures must have their shadows: The rarest and most brilliant gems must have dark backgrounds to set off their beauty; the best creature is but a bitter sweet at best: If there is something pleasing, there is also something sour. if a person has every ability, both innate and acquired, to delight us, yet there is also some natural corruption intermixed with it to put us off. But it is not so in our altogether lovely Christ, his excellencies are pure and unmixed. He is a sea of sweetness without one drop of gall.
Secondly, "Altogether lovely," i.e. There is nothing unlovely found in him, so all that is in him is wholly lovely. As every ray of God is precious, so every thing that is in Christ is precious: Who can weigh Christ in a pair of balances, and tell you what his worth is? "His price is above rubies, and all that thou canst desire is not to be compared with him," Prov. 8:11.
Thirdly "Altogether lovely," i.e. He embraces all things that are lovely: he seals up the sum of all loveliness. Things that shine as single stars with a particular glory, all meet in Christ as a glorious constellation. Col. 1:19, "It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." Cast your eyes among all created beings, survey the universe: you will observe strength in one, beauty in a second, faithfulness in a third, wisdom in a fourth; but you shall find none excelling in them all as Christ does. Bread has one quality, water another, raiment another, medicine another; but none has them all in itself as Christ does. He is bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, a garment to the naked, healing to the wounded; and whatever a soul can desire is found in him, 1 Cor. 1:30.
Fourthly, "Altogether lovely," i.e. Nothing is lovely in opposition to him, or in separation from him. If he truly is altogether lovely, then whatsoever is opposite to him, or separate from him can have no loveliness in it. Take away Christ, and where is the loveliness of any enjoyment? The best creature-comfort apart from Christ is but a broken cistern. It cannot hold one drop of true comfort, Psalm 73:26. It is with the creature--the sweetest and loveliest creature--as with a beautiful image in the mirror: turn away the face and where is the image? Riches, honours, and comfortable relations are sweet when the face of Christ smiles upon us through them; but without him, what empty trifles are they all?
Fifthly, "Altogether lovely," i.e. Transcending all created excellencies in beauty and loveliness. If you compare Christ and other things, no matter how lovely, no matter how excellent and desirable, Christ carries away all loveliness from them. "He is (as the apostle says) before all things," Col. 1:17. Not only before all things in time, nature, and order; but before all things in dignity, glory, and true excellence. In all things he must have the pre-eminence. Let us but compare Christ's excellence with the creature's in a few particulars, and how manifest will the transcendent loveliness of Jesus Christ appear!
Christ is altogether lovely. Altogether lovely. Lovable, loving, Love Incarnate, altogether lovely. Are any other words necessary or meaningful in this relation?
In His humanity--altogether lovely,
In His divinity--altogether lovely,
In His humility--altogether lovely,
In His devotion--altogether lovely,
In His speech--altogether lovely,
In His appearance--altogether lovely,
In His life--altogether lovely,
In His words--altogether lovely,
In His sacrifice--altogether lovely,
In His death--altogether lovely,
In His friendship--altogether lovely,
In His anger--altogether lovely,
In His generosity--altogether lovely,
In His teaching--altogether lovely,
In His subservience--altogether lovely,
In His transcendence--altogether lovely,
In His apostles--altogether lovely,
In His saints--altogether lovely,
In His people--altogether lovely,
In all people--Christ is altogether lovely,
In His creation--Christ is altogether lovely.
Lord, teach me always and everywhere to live in awe, wonder, and constant attention to your loveliness--the loveliness of the most beautiful of God's creations or man's cocreations pales in comparison. Teach me to look upon this and desire this alone. Teach me to let go of everything that is not You--for in you alone is there anything worthwhile.