Thou art fairer than the children of men: full of grace are thy lips, because God hath blessed thee for ever.
'My heart is inditing a good matter;' and I could wish 'my tongue' were 'the pen therefore,' 'of a ready writer,' that ' I might speak the things I have made touching the King,' this day's new-born King, as I ought to speak, as they ought to be spoken. But,
Non mihi si centum lingæ sint, oraque centum.
'Had I a hundred mouths, and as many tongues,' and they the tongues of angels too. I could not yet sufficiently set forth the beauty of this Fair One, the majesty of this King, the grace of his person, or the comfort of his day,--this day wherein he came to be first reckoned among the 'children of men.'
Yet something must be said, both for the day's sake, and the Person's. It is a day of good tidings, so the Angel tells us, and then we must not hold our peace: the very lepers, that are to hold their hands upon their mouths, cannot hold them at this; say 'We do not well:' if we do, 'some mischief will come upon us.' And lips so full of grace will require the return of the lips at least. We can so little, if we cannot speak to us, as the Apostle tells us, by his Son; if he will not render a word in answer to this Eternal Word, speak of, [125/126] the beauty, and grace, and blessing that we see in him, and find by him. God hath blessed him for ever, blessed us to-day, will bless us too, hath already blessed us in blessing him; will bless us more and more in him, to-day and for ever: good reason, then, we bless him to-day, who from this day began to bless us for ever.
All this while you understand me who I mean, who is so 'fair,' so 'gracious,' so 'blessed.' The question is, whether the Psalmist means the same. Indeed they give it out for an epithalamium, or marriage-song at Solomon's espousals with Pharaoh's daughter. And in such songs the praise and commendation of the bridegroom and the bride, and good wishes to them, are the usual subjects. It is so here; Solomon and his bride commended, blessed, well-wished too in it: but yet, 'behold, a greater than Solomon is here,' a fairer, graciouser, blesseder than he; Christ married to his Church, or rather the Divinity contracted to the humanity, Christ made the 'fairest' of the 'children of men,' ex as well as præ; more gracious words out of his mouth than ever out of Solomon's; more truly ever-blessed, ¢e mak£rioj, than he; the song sung in a fuller key, the words more punctually applicable, the prophecy more exactly fulfilled, in him than in Solomon himself. The Fathers have so expounded it before us; the Church has added authority to it by the choice of the Psalms for a part of the Office of the Day: nay, S. Paul has so applied it. So I am in no ways singular: indeed, I love not to be in such points as these; I tread the ancient track; though I confess I think I can never take occasions enough nor I, nor any else to speak of Christ, of his beauty and grace and blessedness, either to-day or any day, though every day whatsoever.
And though I must say with S. Hilary, Filium mens mea veretur attingere, et trepidat omnis sermo se prodere, I can neither think without a kind of fear, nor speak without a kind of trembling, of a person of that glory; yet because it is our External Solomon's, the Word's wedding-day, and the text part of the wedding-song: and in such days and songs the very children, all comers, bear a part; and if they [126/127] did not, the stones would do it indeed, the stones and walls should this day all ring of it; and if they, I must not be the only senseless stone to hold my peace. Indeed, here is a beauty would make the most ungracious full of good words and holy language, were they well conceived and considered.
That so they may, the words are now to be considered as a part of an epithalamium, or marriage-song, wherein Christ, our eternal Bridegroom, is set forth in all his luster. Now, in a bridegroom, the chief things we look at are good parts, and a good estate. Our Bridegroom here has both. Fair-faced and fair-spoken, full of grace and beauty for his parts; and a fair estate he has too, God be thanked for it; a blessed lot, a goodly heritage in a fair ground; blessedness itself enstated upon him, and that for ever. Both far above the part and portions of the children of men; the Son's parts above the parts of children of men, and the Father's blessing above the blessings of the fathers of men; and neither the one nor the other to be concealed, but even spoken and sung of while you will, by us as well as David; as loud, too, and in as high a key. Run this division upon it if you please, and take these parts, to sing of in their order.
I. His beauty, Christ's excellent beauty. 'Thou art fairer than the children of men.'
II. His eloquence, Christ's infinite grace in speaking. 'Full of grace are thy lips.'
III. The original whence they come: from God's blessing; eo quod, in one way of rendering, 'Because God hath blessed thee for ever;' because he hath blessed thee, therefore art thou so fair, so full of grace.
IV. The effect of them, what they cause: God's blessing again; so the other rendering the word by propterea, 'therefore,' that is, because of this excellent grace and beauty; therefore 'has God blessed thee for ever.'
V. The end whither they move and tend, the great business they aim at even to the blessing of God again. For so the Hebrew writers supply the sense, with a Dico ego: 'Therefore say I;' and so say we, or are to say so, 'God [127/128] hath blessed thee for ever.' Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and blessed be our Lord Jesus Christ, for all this grace, for all this blessing. If our Spouse so fair, then we sure, should be faithful: if his lips so full of grace, our lips as full of thanks: if be blessed of God, we, again, bless God and him for so great a blessing: so great blessings, so continually descending upon us; so lasting, so everlasting, never sufficiently answered but by all our ways of blessing; and so blessing him always, all our days, whilst we live, for ever. We sing our parts, and praise him in the song; sing or say, 'Thou art fairer,' thou, O Christ, art fairer, &c.
For this is the sum and the whole meaning of the text, to give us a view of Christ's beauty and the Christian's duty both together; so to show and set forth to us the luster and splendour of Christ's incomparable beauty, and the overflowing fullness of his grace, as to make us really in love with him, to rayish our hearts and tongues and hands to his service and praise, that we may to-day, and every day, serve, and praise, and magnify him all the day long, the only way to blessedness for ever. I begin with his beauty, for that is a principal attractive to him.
'When I shall be lift up, I shall draw all men to me,' says he himself. That lifting up was upon the cross; and if that be so attractive, if he be so powerful in his humiliation, when his face is clouded with darkness, his eyes with sadness, his heart with sorrow, when his body is so mangled with wounds, deformed with stripes, besmeared with blood and sweat and dust, that 'will draw all men to him;' how infinitely prevalent, then, must he needs be when we see him in his excellence, smooth and even and entire in all the parts of his soul and body! For in both, fair he is; formosus, 'fair,' formusus præ, 'very fair;' formosus præfiliis, 'fairer than the sweetest beauty;' præ filiis hominum, 'than the children of men,' when they come to their full strength and manly beauty. By these degrees we shall arrive to the perfection of his beauty; fair he is, very fair, fairer than the sweetest, fairer than the perfectest beauty of the sons of men, so in both his body and his soul.
[128/129] i. In his body first. And fair and comely, sure, must that body be, which was immediately and miraculously framed by the Holy Ghost; pure flesh and blood that was stirred together by that pure Spirit, out of the purest blood and spirits of the purest virgin of the world. The shadows of that face must needs be beautiful, that were drawn by the very finger and shadowing of the Holy Ghost; those eyes must needs have quid sidereum, as S. Jerome, some star-like splendour in them, which were so immediately of the heavenly making. The whole frame of that body must needs be excellent, which was made on purpose, by God himself, for the Supreme Excellence to dwell in, to reside in, to be united to, so united by the union hypostatical. A body without sin, must needs be purely fair; a body without concupiscence, must needs be so far handsome; without ordination, must needs be curious and delicate; without any of them, must needs be excellent. And all these were Christ's body without sin, without concupiscence, without defect, without vacuity, without superfluity, without inordination, death and dust and corruption could not get the least dominion over it; 'Thou shalt not suffer my flesh to see corruption,' says the Psalm; he did not suffer it to see it, says the Gospel: raised incorruptible it quickly was; went down into the grave, but stayed not there; came not into the dust at all, into any corruption at all; had none all the while it was upon the earth, had none under it.
Fair (1) he was in his conception, conceived in purity, and a fair angel brought the news. Fair (2) in his nativitiy: wraÐoj is the word in the septuagint tempestivus, in time, that is, all things are beautiful in their time. 'and in the fullness of time' it was that he was born, and a fair star pointed to him. Fair (3) in his childhood: he grew up in grace 'and favour.' The doctors were much taken with him. (4) Fair in his manhood: Had he not been so, [129/130] say S. Jerome, had there not been something admirable in this countenance and presence, some heavenly beauty, nunquam secuturi essent apostolic, &c. the apostles and the whole world, as the Pharisees themselves confess, would not so suddenly have gone after him. Fair (5) in his transfiguration; white as the light, or as the snow; his face glittering as the sun, even to the ravishing the very soul of S. Peter, that 'he knew not what he said;' could let his eyes upon that face for ever, and never come down the mount again. (6) Fair in his passion: nihil indecorum, no uncomeliness, in his nakedness; his very wounds, and the bloody prints of' the whips and scourges, drew an Ecce from the mouth of' Pilate, ' Behold the man!' The sweet-ness of this countenance and carriage, in the midst of filth and spittle, whips and buffets in his very comeliness upon the cross, and his giving up the ghost- that made the centurion cry out he 'was the Son of God;' there appeared so sweet a majesty, so heavenly a lustre in him, through that very darkness that compassed him. (7) Fair in his resurrec-tion: so subtle a beauty, that mortal eyes, even the eyes of his own disciples, were not able to see or apprehend it, but when he veiled it for them. (8) Fair in his ascension: made his disciples stand gazing after him so long, (as if they never could look long enough upon him,) till an angel is sent from heaven to rebuke them, to look home.
If you ask Eusebius, Evagrius, Nicephorus, Damascen and some otlhers, how fair he was, they will tell you so fair, that the painter sent from Agbarus, king of Edessa, to draw his picture, could not look so steadfastly upon him as to do it, for the rays that darted from his face; and though the Scripture mention no such thing, it is no greater wonder to believe than what we read or Moses' face, which shone so glorious, that the children of Israel could not behold it. Lentulus, the, Roman President, his epistle to the Emperor Antonius, describes him of very comely colour, shape, and [130/131] figure; and so do others which darts from its wanton rays, or warms the blood or stirs the spirits to vain desires or secular respects and motions; but a sweetness without sensual daintiness, a lustre without lightness, a modest look without dejectedness. A grave countenance without severity, a fair face without fancy, figure, and proportion, and all such as was most answerable and advantageous to the work he came about, every way fitted to the most perfect operations of the reasonable and immortal soul;--the most operation beautiful then, sure, when beauty is nothing else but an exact order and proportion of things, in relation to their nature and end, both to themselves and to each other.
Take his description froth the spouse's own. mouth: 'My behoved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand; his head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy,' (or curled) 'and black as a raven; his eyes are as the eyes of doves, by the rivers of water, washed with water and fitly set,' (that is, set in fulness, fitly placed, and as a precious stone in the foil of a ring) ; 'his cheeks are as at bed of spices, as sweet flowers; his lips like lilies, dropping sweet; smelling myrrh; his hands are as gold rings set with beryl; his belly as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires; his legs are as pillars of marble, set upon socket, of fine gold; his countenance like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars; his mouth is most sweet, yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.' This is our beloved too. Solomon indeed has poetically expressed it; yet something else there is in it besides a poetic phrase. Beautiful he thus supposes He is to be, who was to be this spouse; have the beauty of all beautiful things in the world conferred upon him; at least, to have the finest and sub-tilest part of all worldly beauties--those imperceptible yet powerful species of them, which make them really amiable and attractive: a head, and locks, and eyes, and hands, and feet--quantity, colour, and proportion-such as darted from them not only a resemblance, but the very spirit of heavenly beauty, innocence, purity, strength, and vigour. Poets [131/132] when the commend beauty, call it divine and heavenly; this of his it was truly so so, a kind of sensible divinity through all its parts.
Shall I give you his colour, to make the beauty? He was white, pure white, in his nativity, ruddy in his passion, bright and glistering in his life, black in his death, azure-veined in his resurrection. No wonder, now, to see the spouse sir 'down under his shadow with great delight;' we, sure, ourselves now can [not] do less, and yet this is but the shadow of his beauty. The true beauty is the soul's: the beauty of the soul, the very soul of beauty; the beauty of the body, but the body, nay the carcase of it. And this of the soul's he had (ii) in its prime perfection.
ii. Now, beauty consists of three particulars: the perfection of the lineaments, the due proportion of them each to other, and the excellency and purity of the colour. They are all complete in the soul of Christ. The lineaments of the soul, are its faculties and powers; the proportion of them, is the due subordination of them to God and one another. The colours, are the virtues and graces that are in them.
1. His powers and faculties would not but be complete, which had nothing of old Adam in them. His understanding without ignorance, he knew all, the very hearts of all; thoughts as they rose, what they thought within the themselves; thoughts as the rose, what the Pharisees with other would have done to him, had he committed himself unto them. Now, Tyre and Sidon would have repented, had they had the mercy allowed to Chorazin and Bethsaida. His will without wilfulness or weakness, his passions without infirmity or extravagance, his inferior powers without defect or maim, his understanding clear, his will holy, his passions sweet, all his powers vigorous. Hear the wise Man describe him under the name of Wisdom of the Father, 'is an understanding spirit, holy, one only, manifold, subtle, lively, clear, underfiled, plain, not subject to hurt, loving the thing that is good, quick, which cannot be letted, ready to do good, kind to man, steadfast, sure, free from care, having all power, overseeing all things, and going through all understanding, [132/133] pure, and most subtle spirits.' 'A pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty, the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness.'
The powers of his soul being thus pure, vigorous, and unspotted, they cannot (2) but be in order; the will following his understanding, the passions subordinate to them both, all the inferior powers obedient and ready at command and pleasure. He had no sooner expressed a kind of grievance in his sensitive powers, at the approach of those strange horrors of his death and sufferings, but presently comes out, Non mea sed tua, 'Not my will but thine,' all in a moment at peace and in tranquillity. No rash or idle word, no unseemly passage, no sour look, nor gesture or expression unsuitable to his divinity, throughout his life; the very devils to their own confusion cannot but confess it, 'We know thee, who thou art, the Holy One of God.'
3. To this, add those heavenly colours and glances of grace and virtues, and you have his soul completely beautiful: meekness, and innocence, and patience, and obedience, even to the death; mercy, and goodness, and piety, and what else is truly called by the name of good, are all in him: insomuch that the Apostle tells us, the very 'fulness of the Godhead' dwells in him 'bodily.' No Divine grace or virtue wanting in him. in him all sanctity and holiness and sanctification unto us.' Sancti quasi sanguine uncti, we saints and holy become hallowed by the sprinkling of his blood. In him, lastly, is all the power and virtue, omnis virtus, that is, omnis potestas, 'all the power in heaven and earth,' fully given to him.
So that now we shall need to say little of the other particular of this first general point of Christ's perfect beauty, that he is not only formosus, but formosus præ, not only 'fair,' but 'very fair;' for where there is so much as you have heard, exceeding and excellent it must needs be where the body is complete in all its parts, the soul exact in all its powers, the body without any ill inclination, natural or habitual, the soul without the least stain of [133/134] thought, or glance of irregularity, nothing to sully the soul or body, all wisdom, and holiness, and power, and virtue. We can say no less of him than the Psalmist of Jerusalem, 'Very excellent things are spoken of thee, thou City of God,' thou miraculous habitation of the Almighty, thou very dwelling, not of God only, but the very Godhead too.
Nor shall I need to say much of the third, the præ filiis, that his beauty is more sweet and innocent than the new-born babe's. Alas! the sweetest, fairest child comes sullied into the world with Adam's guilt. Some of that dust that God cast upon him, when he told him, dust he was, and into dust he should return, sticks so upon the face and body, the very soul and spirit too, of the prettiest infant, that it is nothing to this day's Child. In omnibus sine peccato: 'In all without sin,' says the Apostle; the very temptations he suffered were not from the sinfulness of his nature, any original concupiscence; non novit, says the Apostle in another place; he knew it not, 'knew no sin' at all. In this he might use S. Peter's phrase, 'Man, I know not what thou meanest;' I know not what this condition of man so much as means. Præ filiis; he is as much purer than the child we call innocent, as much before it in purity and innocence, as he is in time and being. Nay, yet again, though we see the sweetest beauty is commonly that of children whilst they are so, yet even that beauty must needs have some kind of stain, or mole, or some insensible kind of defect, though we know not what how to term it, which was not in him. The very natural inordination of our powers must needs give a kind of dull shadow to our exactest beauty, and silently speak the inward fault by some outward defect, though we are too dull, being of the same mould, to apprehend it: whilst there could be no such darkness in the face of Christ; no genius in it which was not perfectly attractive, and exactly fitted to its place and office.
This, perhaps, may seem a subtlety to our duller apprehensions; but it is plain that I shall tell you, though but briefly, in the fourth particular, that he is 'fairer than the children of men,' that men come to their perfect beauty. Alas! alas! before that time long, sin had so sullied [134/135] them, that we may read dark lines in all their faces. The physiognomist will tell you all their faults; our sins and deformities are by that time written in our foreheads, engraven in our hands; our beauty is almost clean lost into corruption. Could we see as angels so, those eyes that seem to sparkle flames would look terrible as the fires of hell; those cheeks, that seem beauteous in their blushes, would be seen to have no other than the colour of our sins; those lips, which we cry up for sweetness, would stink in our conceit with rottenness; the teeth that look white as ivory, we should behold black with calumny and slander, as the soot of the foulest chimneys; the fair curled locks would look like snakes, the young span of the great red dragon; the hands that look so white and delicate, would appear filthy, bloody, and unclean. We, poor, we, are but blind moles and bats. We see nothing; we know not what is beautiful, what is lovely. If we did, these earthly beauties would seem what I have said them nay, worse; Christ only would be beautiful; no body but Christ's body, no body but that wherein Christ dwells, in whose eyes, and cheeks, and lips, and head, and hands, you might see Christ's beauty, meekness, love, charity, goodness, justice, mercy, innocence, piety, with the rest of those lines of beauty which were in him. But whatever we would then say of the bodies, we can say no other even now of the souls of men that none are fair, but that are well coloured and proportioned to those heavenly lines; and in this point freely acknowledge the pre-eminence of Christ, the prerogative of this spouse. And well may we say of him, with the Psalmist, that he is 'fairer than the children of men,' whom daily sin deform and render ugly, when the Apostle sets him before the sons of God, the angels, the cherubims, and seraphims which you will of them; 'for to which of them,' says he, 'has he said at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?' begotten thee after mine own image, the very 'express image of my person, the brightness of my glory.' 'Fairer than the children of men,' no doubt, who is as fair and bright as God; who is higher than all the sons of men, all the people, by the head, by the Godhead which is in him. Which being in him, there needs no more to say, but that it [135/136] is of necessity he must be the fairest of the sons of men, through whose eyes, and face, and hands, and whole body, the rays of the divine beauty are continually darting from within. Well may we now also espect some of it at his lips; and so we find it here in the very next words, very fully issuing there, 'Full of grace are thy lips.' That is the second general of the text: Gratia diffusa in labiis, 'Grace in the lips,' as well as beauty in the forehead, in face, or other parts of soul and body.
II. Three degrees we observe in the words to make up this fullness Gratia est, gratia diffusa, diffusa in labiis:--that (1) grace there is in Him as well as beauty; (2) grace abundant, and in full measure; and (3) so abundant and so full, that it falls into the lips, comes out full spout there; there above all it issues, and manifests, and appears.
Grace first: that is, good with beauty; all beauty but deformed without it;--a good hint to you, by the way, to get those souls filled with grace, whose bodies God has made fine with beauty. If God has given thee beauty, beg of him that he would also give thee grace beautify thy soul as well as body; and strive thou also what thou canst possibly thyself to adorn thy beauty in thy body, make amends for it by the beauty and sweetness of thy soul: though thy face be not fair, thy lips may be gracious, thou mayst be full of good words and works, and thou mayst do God more service with the grace of thy lips, than with the beauty of thy fairest face, that so amasses and ravishes worldly lovers.
Now, a threefold grace there is in Christ. And first, the grace of his person, or personal grace wherewith his own person was endued, so far as to be free from all kind of sin; the grace of the head, whereby he disperses his graces into all members, as the Head of the Church into the Body, into the souls of Christians and unbelievers; and then the grace of union, that ineffable grace whereby the Godhead is united to the manhood. By the first, he himself is holy; by the second, he makes us so; by the third, he wrought all the means to do it. For the first, let us reverence his person; for the second, let us embrace him, and be ruled by him; for the third, let us perpetually admire and adore him.
[136/137] It is ready to conceive now, that he was full indeed, beyond measure full; the Spirit not given to him by measure: so he says himself, and his witness is true, though he bear witness of himself; anointed with it above his fellows, as it follows, words repeated and applied expressly to him by S. Paul. So full that he pours out upon us, pours in all we have. We are but empty vessels, till he pour into us; without grace, or any good, till he pour it in, diffusa in, as well as effusa ex. It is 'spread abroad in our hearts,' says the Apostle, as well as spread upon his lips.
Yet is our fullness but the fullness of earthy pitchers but five or six firkins apiece at most, when they are filled to the brim; his fullness the fullness of the fountain, that pours itself over all the neighbouring valleys, and yet empties not itself; runs still as fresh as ever; only holds when there are no more vessels, or the vessels there will hold no more. His fullness minds us either of our emptiness or shallowness: and if grace we have either in our hearts or lips, we will deplore it; fill our eyes with tears, and our lips with prayers, that he may fill our hearts with grace, make us some way partakers of his fulness.
And that we need not doubt of, now it is gotten into his lips. They are the conduits of his grace; they convey it to us. Three several graces we gather from his lips.
1. His gracious miracles. By his bare word he healed the lame, and cured the blind, and restored the sick, and cleansed the leper, and dispossessed the devils, and raise the dead. He spake the word, and all was done. 'Full of grace' indeed, to do such deeds of grace, so willingly, so readily, so generally; an d in the 'lips' indeed, when it was all done only by the word of his mouth.
2. The gracious instructions that proceeded out of his mouth; insomuch that all wondered at it, says S. Luke. He only taught with authority and a grace; all other teachers, the long-winded Pharisee himself, but wind and bubble to him.
3. The gracious promises of the Gospel pardon and forgiveness, grace, and mercy, and peace, and heaven, and happiness, all fully preached and revealed by him. 'By the word of his mouth were the heavens made,' says David; [137/138] made over now to jus, kept in store, provided and prepared for jus, with that privilege too, præ filiis hominum, before all the children of men that were before us, 'that they without us should not be made perfect.'
We may without question apply, præ filiis hominum, before all the children of men that were before us, 'that they without us should not be made perfect.'
We may without question apply, præ filiis hominum to this point, to say here also that his lips are fuller of grace than the children of men; for even the officers of his enemies were forced to confess it long ago. 'Never any man spake like this man;' never so graciously, never so comfortably, never so effectually, never so powerfully, never so sweetly, never so much grace, and goodness, and glory.
And it is still diffusa, lasts still. His lips are his ministers, and preachers, and by them he still diffuses his grace daily to us: Labia sacerdotis custodiunt, they keep grace for others, even when they keep none for themselves. The ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, though it comes sometimes through corrupt and putrid channels, is not defiled or made unprofitable by it. 'Out of the children's,' that is, ignorant simple ministers' 'mouths,' sometimes; God perfects praise,' and make the stones, the most stony and obdurate sinner among them, cry out loud enough to do other good, to soften others, though they continue hard and impenitent themselves.
The Sacraments (2) are his lips, too, in which grace is diffused, full grace given and poured out upon us poured in into us. Never grace so fully given as in those holy mysteries; there you see diffusa to the eye, the outward pouring out the wine; and must believe, though you do not see, the inward pouring out the Spirit. Never so gracious words proceeded out of his mouth as those you hear there: 'This is my body, which was given for you. Take and eat' the one; 'Take and drink' the other. What more abundant grace, what higher favour, than thus to have our lips, and mouths, and hearts filled with himself, and all the benfits of himself? Wonder we may at it, for it is a work of wonder an ineffable mystery.
Gracious, indeed, always were his words: 'Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will refresh you.' 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to [138/139] repentance.' 'Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you a kingdom.' 'Ye that have followed me, in the regeneration, shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' 'God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him should be saved.' 'Behold, I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.' 'He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.' 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the of the world.' Great and gracious effusions these, full of grace; yet to give himself daily for our food and nourishment, and call us to it, is to set seal to all those other sayings, to bring them home particularly to every one of us, the very 'Amen' and summing up of all the rest.
III. it is time, now, to inquire whence all this fullness all this fairness; Eo quod Deus benedixit, reads one translation, 'because God hath blessed him.' Christ's beauty is God's blessing; all beauty is so, be it what it will; from Him it comes, is but a ray of that eternal beauty, that inaccessible light, that summe pulchrum as well as summe bonum, the everlasting brightness of the Father: all the beauty of the mind and body, all the integrity and vigour of all our powers, are merely from his blessing, not our merit a good lesson from it, not to be proud of any of them. Christ himself, as man, had not his beauty any other way; no, nor his grace neither. His manhood could not merit the union of the Godhead; it was the mere gift of God so to anoint the humanity with the Deity, without which he could not have been the Saviour could not have made satisfaction for so infinite a mass of sins. God's blessing so to contrive salvation to us, to enable the manhood with the Godhead to go through the work of our redemption. 'God so loved the world, that he sent his son' into the world in our mortal nature, thus enabled, thus beautified, thus filled, that we might all be partakers of his fullness.
IV. Yet, in the fourth place, though Christ, as mere man, could not deserve this grace and beauty, yet when once the manhood was united to the Godhead, then he deserved the [139/140] second blessing. Then propterea, 'therefore God hath blessed' him, is as true a rendering as the other; then, when 'being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death,' then comes in S. Paul's 'therefore' or 'wherefore,' rightly: 'Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow;' that we should bow ourselves in humility and thankfulness unto him, that every tongue should confess, all tongues bless him, and bless God for him, that we might praise him in the Church, in the midst of the congregation.
For, a doubling blessing has Christ purchased to himself--- a blessing upon his person, and a blessing upon his church. By his grace and beauty he has first purchased to himself a name, and then a Church a glorious one, too; made himself the head of it: for it pleased God that in him should all fullness dwell; it pleased him also by that fullness 'to reconcile all things to himself,' to make him the head of all, the Saviour of them all; to bless him in the ordinary style of Scripture, where children are called 'the blessing of the Lord;' to bless him with an everlasting seed a Church and people to the end of the world, do the gates of hell what they can against it.
V. There remains nothing, now, but our benedixit to answer God's our blessing to answer his: we to bless him again for all his blessings: for to that purpose is both Christ's grace, and God's blessing: all his blessing- all his blessings; therefore fullness of grace in him, that it might be diffused and poured out upon us; therefore diffused and poured out upon us, that we might pour out something for it; bene fecit for benedixit, some good works or other; at least benedixt for benedixit, god words for it, blessing for blessing.
Indeed, it is but benedixit here with God; but dixit et fecit, he said and it was done. Saying and doing are all one with God; should be so with us if we would be like him; our deeds as good as our words, our piety as fair as our pretences; that is the only truly blessing God.
And the likest, too, to last in sæcula, to hold for ever. Good words, and praising God in words, is but the leaves of the tree of blessing; and leaves, you know, will wither: the [140/141] stock and trunk is blessing God in earnest by good works, by expressing the diffusions of this grace in our lives and actions, by imitating and conforming ourselves to the beauty of this beloved.
If he be so fair as you have seen it, how can we now but love him? if his lips so full of grace, how can we but delight to hear him, to hear his word? If blessed, how can we less than strive to be partakers of his blessing? If for ever, how can we but desire to be ever with him, perpetually attending him? If his beauty was God's blessing, let us humbly acknowledge ours comes all from him. If the grace of his lips were the blessing of God's, let us know we are not able of ourselves to speak so much as a good word as of ourselves. If, again, he was therefore blessed because he was so beautiful, and so diffused his grace, used both his beauty and eloquence, to bring about the children of men to become the children of God; let us so employ those smaller glimmerings of beauty and gifts of grace we have, to the service and glory of God and his Christ.
We dote much upon worldly beauties; we think, we think, we talk, we dream of them; our minds and affections are ever on them, wholly after them. Why do we not so on Christ, and after him? He is the 'fairest of then thousand;' 'Solomon in all his glory' not like him; none of all the sons of Adam comes near him. Why do we not then delight to look upon him, to discourse with him, to talk of him, to be ever with him? What is the reason we do not season our labours, our recreations, our retirements, our discourses, with him?
We are easily won with fair words and gracious speeches. Lo, here are lips the most eloquent that ever were: why do we not even hang upon them?--Why do we not, with the spouse in the Canticles, desire him to kiss us with the kisses of his lips, to communicate his fullness to us? Indeed, I can render no cause at all, but that we are so immersed in flesh and earthly beauties, that we cannot see the true heavenly beauty of Christ, or we do not believe it.
And yet this Jesus is everywhere to be seen; his ministers, his word, his daily grace, preventing, directing, and assisting, preserving and delivering us; the creatures plainly and evidently enough discover him daily to us.
[141/142] But to-day we have a fairer discovery and sight of him. This Jesus that is so fair, this Jesus so full of grace, this Jesus so blessed of God for ever, is this day presented to us in his blessed sacrament; there is he himself in all his beauty, all his fullness. Say we then to him, Come in, thou blessed of the Lord, come in; we have made ready and prepared the house for thee and for thy camels--for thyself and those consecrated elements that carry and convey thee. Get we our vessels ready, and shut the door to us, as the poor widow did shut out all worldly thought thoughts and wandering fancies, that he may pour out his oil, his grace into them, till they be full. And pour we out our souls before him in all devotion and humility, in all praise and thanksgiving. Is not the cup we are to take, the 'cup of blessing,' in the Apostle's style? Take we it, then, and bless him with it; 'taste and see how gracious the Lord is;' see and behold how fair he is, how amiable and lovely; and be ravished with his beauty and sweetness, and never think we can be satisfied with it, with seeing, or hearing, or blessing him, but be always doing so for ever.
So shall he make us fair with his beauty, good with his grace, happy with his blessedness, bring us one day to see his face in perfect beauty, and so see his grace poured out into glory, there to bless, and magnify him for ever.