CHRIST ALTOGETHER LOVELY
by John Flavel
"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved,
and this is my Friend." Song of Songs 5:16
I. Christ is to be loved
At the ninth verse of this chapter, you have a question
put forth by the daughters of Jerusalem, "What is your beloved more than
another beloved?" The spouse answers, "He is the chief among ten thousand."
She then recounts many of the things she finds so excellent in her beloved
and then concludes with these words: "Yes, he is altogether lovely." The
words set forth the transcendent loveliness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and
naturally resolve themselves into three parts:
First, Who he is: the
Lord Jesus Christ, after whom she had been seeking, for whom she was
overcome by love; concerning whom these daughters of Jerusalem had enquired:
whom she had struggled to describe in his particular excellencies. He is the
great and excellent subject of whom she here speaks.
Secondly, What he is,
or what she claims of him: That he is a lovely one. The Hebrew word, which
is often translated "desires," means "to earnestly desire, covet, or long
after that which is most pleasant, graceful, delectable and admirable." The
original word is both in the abstract, and plural in number, which says that
Christ is the very essence of all delights and pleasures, the very soul and
substance of them. As all the rivers are gathered into the ocean, which is
the meeting-place of all the waters in the world, so Christ is that ocean in
which all true delights and pleasures meet.
Thirdly, What he is like:
He is altogether lovely, the every part to be desired. He is lovely when
taken together, and in every part; as if she had said, "Look on him in what
respect or particular you wish; cast your eye upon this lovely object, and
view him any way, turn him in your serious thoughts which way you wish;
consider his person, his offices, his works, or any other thing belonging to
him; you will find him altogether lovely, there is nothing disagreeable in
him, there is nothing lovely without him." Hence note,
DOCTRINE: That Jesus Christ is the loveliest person souls
can set their eyes upon: "You are the most excellent of men." Psalm 45:2
II. What is meant by Christ being 'altogether lovely'
He is "Altogether Lovely!" Here it is said of Jesus
Christ, which cannot be said of any mere creature, that he is "altogether
lovely." Let us consider this excellent expression, and particularly reflect
on what is contained in it, and you shall find this expression "altogether
1. 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. Whatever 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.
2. There is nothing unlovely found in him, so all that is
in him is wholly lovely. As every ray of God is precious, so
everything 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 you can desire is not to be compared with him," Proverbs 8:11.
3. Christ 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, clothing
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
4. Nothing is lovely in opposition to him, or in
separation from him. If he truly is altogether lovely, then
whatever 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, honors, and comfortable relations
are sweet when the face of Christ smiles upon us through them; but without
him, what empty trifles are they all?
5. Christ transcends 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 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
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! For,
1. All other loveliness is derived and secondary; but
the loveliness of Christ is original and primary. Angels and men, the
world and all the desirable things in it, receive what excellence they have
from him. They are streams from the fountain. The farther anything
departs from its fountain and original, the less excellency there is in it.
2. The loveliness and excellency of all other things,
is only relative, consisting in its reference to Christ, and subservience to
his glory. But Christ is lovely, considered absolutely in himself. He is
desirable for himself; other things are desirable because of him.
3. The beauty and loveliness of all other things are
fading and perishing; but the loveliness of Christ is fresh for all eternity.
The sweetness of the best created thing is a fading flower; if not before,
yet certainly at death it must fade away. Job 4:21. "Does not their
excellency, which is in them, go away?" Yes, yes, whether they are the
natural excellencies of the body, acquired endowments of the mind, lovely
features, graceful qualities, or anything else we find attractive; all these
like pleasant flowers are withered, faded, and destroyed by death. "But
Christ is still the same, yesterday, today, and forever," Heb. 13:8.
4. The beauty and holiness of creatures are ensnaring
and dangerous. A man may make an idol out of them, and indulge
himself beyond the bounds of moderation with them, but there is no danger of
excess in the love of Christ. The soul is then in the healthiest frame and
temper when it is most overwhelmed by love to Christ, Song of Songs 5:8.
5. The loveliness of every creature is of a confining
and obstructing nature. Our esteem of it diminishes the closer we
approach to it, or the longer we enjoy it. Creatures, like pictures, are
fairest at a certain distance, but it is not so with Christ; the nearer the
soul approaches him, and the longer it lives in the enjoyment of him, still
the sweeter and more desirable he becomes.
6. All other loveliness cannot satisfy the soul of man.
There is not scope enough in any one created thing, or in all the natural
universe of created things for the soul of man to reach out and expand; but
the soul still feels itself confined and narrowed within those limits. This
comes to pass from the inadequacy and unsuitableness of the creature to the
nobler and more excellent soul of man. The soul is like a ship in a narrow
river which does not have room to turn. It is always running aground and
foundering in the shallows. But Jesus Christ is in every way sufficient to
the vast desires of the soul; in him it has sea-room enough. In him the soul
may spread all its sails with no fear of touching bottom. And thus you see
what is the importance of this phrase, "Altogether lovely."
III. How is Christ altogether lovely?
Next I promised to show you in what respects Jesus Christ
is altogether lovely.
First, Christ is altogether
lovely in his PERSON. He is Deity dwelling in flesh, John 1:14.
The wonderful, perfect union of the divine and human nature in Christ
renders him an object of admiration and adoration to both angels and men, 1
Tim. 3:16. God never presented to the world such a vision of glory before.
Consider how the human nature of our Lord Jesus Christ is overflowing
with all the graces of the Spirit, in such a way as never any of the saints
was filled. O what a lovely picture does this paint of him! John 3:34, "God
gives the Spirit to him without limit." This makes him "the most excellent
of men, and his lips have been anointed with grace," Psalm 45:2. If a small
measure of grace in the saints makes them sweet and desirable companions,
what must the riches of the Spirit of grace filling Jesus Christ without
measure make him in the eyes of believers? O what a glory must it fix upon
Secondly, Christ is altogether
lovely in his OFFICES. Let us consider for a moment the
suitability, fullness, and comforting nature of his offices of Prophet,
Priest and King.
First, The SUITABILITY of the offices of Christ to the
miseries of men. We cannot but adore the infinite wisdom of his receiving
them. We are, by nature, blind and ignorant, at best but groping in the dim
light of nature after God, Acts 17:27. Jesus Christ is a light to enlighten
the Gentiles, Isa. 49:6. When this great prophet came into the world,
then did the day-spring from on high visit us, Luke 1:78. By nature we are
alienated from, and at enmity against God; Christ comes into the world to be
an atoning sacrifice, making peace by the blood of his cross, Col.
1:20. All the world, by nature, is in bondage and captivity to Satan, a
miserable slavery. Christ comes with kingly power, to rescue sinners,
as a prey from the mouth of the terrible one.
Secondly, Let the FULLNESS of his offices be also
considered, which make him able "to save to the uttermost, all that come to
God by him," Heb. 7:25. The three offices, comprising in them all that our
souls do need, become a universal relief to all our distresses; and
Thirdly, Unspeakably COMFORTING must the offices of
Christ be to the souls of sinners. If light be pleasant to our eyes,
how pleasant is that light of life springing from the Sun of righteousness!
Mal. 4:2. If a pardon is sweet to a condemned criminal, how sweet
must the sprinkling the blood of Jesus be to the trembling conscience of a
law-condemned sinner? If a rescue from a cruel tyrant is sweet to a
poor captive, how sweet must it be to the ears of enslaved sinners, to hear
the voice of liberty and deliverance proclaimed by Jesus Christ? Out of the
several offices of Christ, as out of so many fountains, all the promises of
the new covenant flow, as so many soul-refreshing streams of peace and joy.
All the promises of illumination, counsel and direction flow out of Christ's
prophetic office. All the promises of reconciliation, peace, pardon,
and acceptance flow out of his priestly office, with the sweet
streams of joy and spiritual comforts which accompany it. All the promises
of converting, increasing, defending, directing, and supplying grace, flow
out of the kingly office of Christ; indeed, all promises may be
reduced to these three offices, so that Jesus Christ must be altogether
lovely in his offices.
Thirdly, Christ is Lovely in His
First, He is a lovely REDEEMER,
Isa. 61:1. He came to open the prison-doors to those who are bound. This
Redeemer must be a lovely one; if we consider the depth of misery from
which he redeemed us, even "from the wrath to come," 1 Thess. 1:10.
Consider the numbers redeemed, and the means of their redemption.
Rev. 5:9, "And they sang a new song, saying, 'You are worthy to take the
book, and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain, and have redeemed
us to God by your blood, out of every kindred and tongue, and people and
nation.'" He redeemed us not with silver and gold, but with his own
precious blood, by way of price, 1 Pet. 1:18,19. with his out-stretched
and glorious arm, by way of power, Col. 1:13. he redeemed us
freely, Eph. 1:7, fully Rom. 8:1, at the right time, Gal. 4:4,
and out of special and particular love, John 17:9. In a word, he has
redeemed us forever, never more to come into bondage, 1 Pet. 1:5. John
10:28. O how lovely is Jesus Christ in the relation of a Redeemer to God's
Secondly, He is a lovely
BRIDEGROOM to all that he betroths to himself. How does the
church glory in him, in the words following my text; "this is my Beloved,
and this is my Friend, O you daughters of Jerusalem!" Heaven and earth
cannot show anyone like him, which needs no fuller proof than the following
1. That he betroths to himself, in mercy and in loving
kindness, such deformed, defiled, and altogether unworthy souls as we are.
We have no beauty, no goodness to make us desirable in his eyes; all the
origins of his love to us are in his own breast, Deut. 7:7. He chooses us,
not because we were lovely, but in order that he might make us lovely Eph.
5:27. He came to us when we lay in our blood, and said unto us, "Live"; and
that was the time of love, Ezek. 16:5.
2. He expects no restitution from us, and yet gives
himself, and all that he has, to us. Our poverty cannot enrich him, but
he made himself poor to enrich us, 2 Cor. 8:9. 1 Cor. 3:22.
3. No husband loves the wife of his bosom, as much as
Christ loved his people, Eph. 5:25. He loved the church and gave himself
4. No one bears with weaknesses and provocations as
Christ does; the church is called "the Lamb's wife," Rev. 19:9.
5. No husband is so undying and everlasting a husband
as Christ is; death separates all other relations, but the soul's union
with Christ is not dissolved in the grave. Indeed, the day of a believer's
death is his marriage day, the day of his fullest enjoyment of Christ. No
husband can say to his wife, what Christ says to the believer, "I will never
leave you, nor forsake you," Heb. 8:5.
6. No bridegroom enriches his bride with such honors
by marriage, as Christ does; he makes them related to God as their
father, and from that day the mighty and glorious angels think it no
dishonor to be their servants, Heb. 1:14. The angels will admire the beauty
and glory of the spouse of Christ, Rev. 21:9.
7. No marriage was ever consummated with such
triumphal proceedings as the marriage of Christ and believers shall be in
heaven, "In her beautiful robes, she is led to the king, accompanied by
her bridesmaids. What a joyful, enthusiastic procession as they enter the
king's palace!" Among the Jews, the marriage-house was called the house of
praise; there was joy upon all hands, but nothing like the joy that will be
in heaven when believers, the spouse of Christ, shall be brought there. God
the Father will rejoice to behold the blessed accomplishment and
confirmation of those glorious plans of his love. Jesus Christ, the
Bridegroom will rejoice to see the travail of his soul, the blessed birth
and product of all his bitter pains and agonies, Isa. 53:11. The Holy
Spirit will rejoice to see the completion and perfection of that
sanctifying design which was committed to his hand, 2 Cor. 5:5, to see those
souls whom he once found as rough stones, now to shine as the bright,
polished stones of the spiritual temple! Angels will rejoice: great
was the joy when the foundation of this design was laid, in the incarnation
of Christ, Luke 2:13. Great therefore must their joy be, when the top-stone
is set up with shouting, crying, "Grace, grace." The saints
themselves shall rejoice unspeakably, when they shall enter into the King's
palace, and be forever with the Lord, 1 Thes. 4:17. Indeed there will be joy
on all hands, except among the devils and damned, who shall gnash their
teeth with envy at the everlasting advancement and glory of believers. Thus
Christ is altogether lovely, in the relation of a Bridegroom.
Thirdly, Christ is altogether lovely, in the relation of
an ADVOCATE. 1 John 2:1-2, "If any man
sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins." It is he that pleads the cause of
believers in heaven. He appears for them in the presence of God, to prevent
any new alienation, and to continue the state of friendship and peace
between God and us. In this relation Christ is altogether lovely. For,
1. He makes our cause his own, and acts for us in
heaven, as if for himself, Heb. 4:15. He is touched with a most tender
understanding of our troubles and dangers, and is not only one with us by
way of representation, but also one with us in respect of sympathy and
2. In heaven, Christ our Advocate tracks our cause and
business, as his great and primary design and business. For this
reason in Hebrews 7:25. he is said to "live forever to make intercession for
us." It is as if our concerns were so attended to by him there, that all the
glory and honor which is paid him in heaven would not divert him one moment
from our business.
3. He pleads the cause of believers by his blood.
Unlike other advocates, it is not enough for him to lay out only words,
which is a cheaper way of pleading; but he pleads for us by the voice of his
own blood, as in Heb. 12:24, where we are said to be come "to the blood of
sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel." Every wound
he received for us on earth is a mouth opened to plead with God on our
behalf in heaven. And hence it is, that in Rev. 5:6 he is represented
standing before God, as a lamb that had been slain; as it were exhibiting
and revealing in heaven those deadly wounds received on earth from the
justice of God, on our account. Other advocates spend their breath, Christ
spends his blood.
4. He pleads the cause of believers freely. Other
advocates plead for reward, and empty the purses, while they plead the
causes of their clients.
5. In a word, he obtains for us all the mercies for
which he pleads. No cause miscarries in his hand, which he undertakes,
Rom. 8:33, 34. O what a lovely Advocate is Christ for believers!
Fourthly, Christ is altogether lovely in the relation of
a FRIEND, for in this relation he is
pleased to acknowledge his people, Luke 12:4, 5. There are certain things in
which one friend manifests his affection and friendship to another, but
there is not one like Christ. For,
1. No friend is so open-hearted to his friend as
Christ is to his people: he reveals the very counsels and secrets of his
heart to them. John 15:15. "Henceforth I call you not servants, for the
servant knows not what his Lord does; but I have called you friends; for all
things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you."
2. No friend in the world is so generous and bountiful
to his friend, as Jesus Christ is to believers; he parts with his very blood
for them; "Greater love (he says) has no man than this, that a man lay down
his life for his friends," John 15:13. He has exhausted the precious
treasures of his invaluable blood to pay our debts. O what a lovely friend
is Jesus Christ to believers!
3. No friend sympathizes so tenderly with his
friend in affliction, as Jesus Christ does with his friends: "In all our
afflictions he is afflicted," Heb. 4:15. He feels all our sorrows, needs and
burdens as his own. This is why it is said that the sufferings of believers
are called the sufferings of Christ, Col. 1:24.
4. No friend in the world takes that contentment
in his friends, as Jesus Christ does in believers. Song of Songs 4:9. "You
have ravished my heart, (he says to the spouse) you have ravished my heart
with one of your eyes, with one chain of your neck." The Hebrew, here
rendered "ravished," signifies to puff up, or to make one proud: how the
Lord Jesus is pleased to glory in his people! How he is taken and delighted
with those gracious ornaments which he himself bestows upon them! There is
no friend so lovely as Christ.
5. No friend in the world loves his friend with as
impassioned and strong affection as Jesus Christ loves believers. Jacob
loved Rachel, and endured for her sake the parching heat of summer and cold
of winter; but Christ endured the storms of the wrath of God, the heat of
his indignation, for our sakes. David manifested his love to Absalom, in
wishing, "O that I had died for you!" Christ manifested his love to us, not
in wishes that he had died, but in death itself, in our stead, and for our
6. No friend in the world is so constant and
unchangeable in friendship as Christ is. John 13:1, "Having loved his
own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end." He bears with
millions of provocations and wrongs, and yet will not break friendship with
his people. Peter denied him, yet he will not disown him; but after his
resurrection he says, "Go, tell the disciples, and tell Peter." Let
him not think he has forfeited by that sin of his, his interest in me.
Though he denied me, I will not disown him, Mark 16:7. O how lovely is
Christ in the relation of a friend!
I might further show you the loveliness of Christ in his
ordinances and in his providences, in his communion
with us and communications to us; but there is no end of the
account of Christ's loveliness! I will rather choose to press believers
to their duties towards this altogether lovely Christ, which I shall briefly
conclude in a few words.
1. Is Jesus Christ altogether lovely? Then I beseech you
to set your souls upon this lovely Jesus.
I am sure such an object as has been here represented, would compel love
from the coldest breast and hardest heart. Away with those empty nothings,
away with this vain deceitful world, which deserves not the thousandth part
of the love you give it. Let all stand aside and give way to Christ. O if
only you knew his worth and excellency, what he is in himself, what he has
done for you, and deserved from you, you would need no arguments of mine to
persuade you to love him!
2. Esteem nothing lovely except
as it is enjoyed in Christ, or used for the sake of Christ. Love
nothing for itself, love nothing separate from Jesus Christ. In two things
we all sin in love of created things. We sin in the excess of our
affections, loving them above the proper value of mere created things. We
also sin in the inordinacy of our affections, that is to say we give
our love for created things a priority it should never have.
3. Let us all be humbled for the
corruption of our hearts that are so eager in their affections for vanities
and trifles and so hard to be persuaded to the love of Christ, who is
altogether lovely. O how many pour out streams of love and
delight upon the vain and empty created thing; while no arguments can
draw forth one drop of love from their stubborn and unbelieving hearts to
Jesus Christ! I have read of one Joannes Mollius, who was observed to go
often alone, and weep bitterly; and being pressed by a friend to know the
cause of his troubles, said "O! it grieves me that I cannot bring this heart
of mine to love Jesus Christ more fervently."
4. Represent Christ to the world
as he is, by your behavior towards him. Is he altogether lovely?
Let all the world see and know that he is so, by your delights in him and
communion with him; zeal for him, and readiness to part with any other
lovely thing upon his account. Proclaim his excellencies to the world, as
the spouse did in these verses. Persuade them how much your beloved is
better than any other beloved. Show his glorious excellencies as you speak
of him; hold him forth to others, as he is in himself; altogether lovely.
See that you "walk worthy of him unto all well pleasing," Col. 1:10. "Show
forth the praises of Christ," 1 Pet. 2:19. Let not that "worthy name be
blasphemed through you," James 2:7. He is glorious in himself, and he is
sure to put glory upon you; take heed that you do not put shame and
dishonors upon him; he has committed his honor to you, do not betray that
5. Never be ashamed to be
counted as a Christian. He is altogether lovely; he can never be
a shame to you; it will be your great sin to be ashamed of him. Some men
glory in their shame; do not let yourself be ashamed of your glory. If you
will be ashamed of Christ now, he will be ashamed of you when he shall
appear in his own glory, and the glory of all his holy angels. Be ashamed of
nothing but sin; and among other sins, be ashamed especially for this sin,
that you have no more love for him who is altogether lovely.
6. Be willing to leave every
thing that is lovely upon earth, in order that you may be with the
altogether lovely Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. Lift up your
voices with the bride, Rev. 20:20 "Come Lord Jesus, come quickly." It is
true, you must pass through the pangs of death into his intimacy and
enjoyment; but surely it is worth suffering much more than that, to be with
this lovely Jesus. "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and
the patient waiting for Jesus Christ," 2 Thes. 3:5.
7. Let the loveliness of Christ
draw all men to him. Is loveliness in the creature so attractive?
And can the transcendent loveliness of Christ draw none? O the blindness of
man! If you see no beauty in Christ that causes you to desire him, it is
because the god of this world has blinded your minds.
8. Strive to be Christ-like,
if ever you would be lovely in the eyes of God and man. Certainly, my
brethren, it is only the Spirit of Christ within you, and the beauty of
Christ upon you, which can make you lovely people. The more you resemble him
in holiness, the more will you show of true excellence and loveliness; and
the more frequent and spiritual your communication and communion with Christ
is, the more of the beauty and loveliness of Christ will be stamped upon
your spirits, changing you into the same image, from glory to glory. Amen.
"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved,
and this is my Friend." Song of Songs 5:16