THE MATCHLESS KING.
"Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into Thy lips: therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever."—Psalm xlv. 2.
The subject of the forty-fifth Psalm is the King. "I speak," says the writer, "of the things which I have made touching the King." But what King? We are left to gather who He is from the substance of what is said regarding Him. And looking at the terms applied to Him, it is manifest that there is only one of whom they can properly be used. At the sixth verse the name of God is given to Him, and His throne is said to be "for ever and ever." No earthly king could be spoken of thus, so that we are bound to look up to heaven for the Person whose glory we are here called upon to celebrate. It is the King Messiah, the Lord our Redeemer, whom the Spirit of inspiration presents in this place to our view,—an interpretation the truth of which is placed beyond a doubt by what is said in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where this psalm is expressly quoted as descriptive of the Son of God, our Saviour.
Throughout the psalm He is represented under the figure of a Bridegroom, His Church being the Bride,—a figure under which He is set forth in other parts of Scripture. He is first praised for His matchless beauty and excellency. "Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into Thy lips: therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever." It is here implied that there are none like Him upon the earth— none so fair; that the utterance of His lips especially shows Him to be full of grace; and that God has in consequence bestowed upon Him an everlasting blessing. This is He in whom all on earth have the deepest interest. This is He to whom all ought to be won and wedded in bonds that shall never be broken. This is He after whom all Christians are named. Shall we not delight, therefore, to contemplate the beauty of Him to whom we are so intimately and permanently bound? Earthly unions are but for a season; our union with Him is for ever.
In what, then, does His beauty consist? Why is it said of Him, "Thou art fairer than the children of men"? We call those fair whose outward form and appearance please the bodily eye. There is an external grace which it is very gratifying to behold, not only in man, but also in the lower creatures, both animate and inanimate. The birds of the air and the beasts of the fields, the trees and flowers which deck the face of nature, are many of them so exquisitely formed as to fill us with admiration. But it is not this outward beauty which shines with so pre-eminent lustre in the King whose glory is celebrated in the psalm before us. When He was upon the earth in human likeness, there was nothing in His bodily appearance to distinguish Him from other men. There was no extraordinary attractiveness in His countenance or figure, so as to draw all eyes upon Him. Indeed those who expected to find any such remarkable beauty in Him when He appeared, were told beforehand that they should be disappointed. That same Spirit of inspiration who said of Him, "Thou art fairer than the children of men," said also by the prophet Isaiah, "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." In as far as regards mere outward comeliness, we are taught to believe that the ordinary share of it which He had was sadly marred by the influences to which, in this world, He was exposed. We know what a withering effect grief and pain have upon the aspect of those who are appointed to endure them; and He, above all men, was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." Accordingly, we find Him thus depicted in the book of prophecy: "His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men."
Yet our King is a Person of matchless beauty. "He is the chiefest among ten thousand: He is altogether lovely." But it is evident that we must look deeper for His beauty than the bodily eye can see. In vain do men make pictures of Him, and set up images to represent Him, with the view of thereby having their souls drawn out to love and to honour Him. It is not by the help of those means that His true worth can possibly be discerned. Such false expedients serve only to hide Him from us instead of helping us really to behold Him. Where, then, is His beauty to be seen? It is not far to seek. Open the inspired records of His life on earth, at any page, and read of Him. You cannot follow the sacred narrative with an intelligent mind and a believing heart, and not feel a growing admiration. You see in every paragraph enough to make you pause and wonder. And what is it which thus stands forth from the sacred page to arrest you? It is not a painting of His bodily form which is gradually filled in and perfected till your imagination holds Him, as it were, lifelike before its gaze. No; you may go through the Gospel records from beginning to end without having any idea of the aspect which He presented to those who beheld Him in the flesh. Yet those records are full of Him,—full of His beauty. It is His wondrous character which shines there with the brightness of the sun.
If you admire wisdom, listen to His discourses, and you will be constrained to say, "Never man spake like this man." If you admire purity of conduct, observe Him closely from His birth to His death, and you will be constrained to say of Him what could be said of no other that ever lived on earth, "He was without sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." If you admire a life dedicated to a noble purpose, consider attentively the end for which He lived and died, and you will be constrained to say that every other life that was ever spent on earth, even the brightest and the noblest, fades into darkness when compared with His. "He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." If you admire condescension, behold the Lord of glory, whom the highest angels adored, taking upon Him the form of a servant, that He might do for us sinners a hard and painful work, which no inferior person could possibly have done, and without the accomplishment of which we must have perished for ever. If you admire love which is willing to give up all for the object it loves, contemplate the love of Christ, who, though possessed of all things in heaven and on earth, made Himself poor,—who, though honoured with divine honours, submitted to be despised and mocked,— who, though far removed above the reach of pain and woe, was pleased to endure the bitterest anguish and the accursed death of the cross, that He might redeem us, on whom His love was set, from guilt and misery, and might raise us to honour and glory for ever.
It was not the splendour of His earthly dwelling-place that made Him attractive; for, that He might go about continually doing good, He had given up any fixed abode of His own, and could say with truth, "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head." It was not the imposing grandeur of His retinue which made Him appear great; for He was pleased to take as His constant companions and friends a few poor fishermen, and others in similar condition. It was not the array of His earthly honours that exalted Him; for the only robe of high rank which was ever placed upon His shoulders was one which was thrown around Him in mockery by His enemies, and the only crown ever set on His head was a crown of thorns. Yet who could command like Him? The voice of the mightiest monarch that ever sat upon a throne was feeble compared with His. By a word He made the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, the blind to see, the lame to walk, the sick to rise from their beds, and the dead to come forth from their tombs. At His command the storm ceased and the raging waves were still. At His command the burden fell from many an afflicted body and from many a troubled spirit. He made the mourners sing for joy, and the broken in heart rejoice and be exceeding glad.
There is an excellence here to which there is not only no equal among men, but which it far surpasses the power of man to express. And it was not a thing of a day. It lasts for ever. All earthly beauty is fading, but the beauty of Christ is unfading. All earthly glory is transitory, but the glory of Christ is eternal.
He died, but rose again, and lives for evermore. What He was manifested to be when He appeared on earth in human form, He is now and shall continue to be throughout eternity. We can no more picture to ourselves the outward appearance which He presents, now that He is exalted to the heavens, than we can picture to ourselves the appearance which He presented when He trod this vale of tears. His mere external form, either in His humiliation or in His glory, has not been revealed, so that that is not what we are to contemplate—that is not what is intended to awaken our admiration. But His wonderful character, which we see depicted in the facts recorded regarding Him in the Holy Scriptures, is still the same. Throughout every age He is unceasingly acting in the manner there set forth. His presence with His people is no less certain now because it is unseen. "Lo, I am with you alway," He says. "Where two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." These are not words without meaning. They are not promises without substance. We do not require to go far to seek Him. We do not require to look away to some distant world to behold Him. He is really present with us every moment. He has told us so; and though our bodily eyes discern Him not, yet we believe His Word. We see him by faith. "Yet a little while," He said to His disciples, "and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me." And how did they see Him when He was withdrawn from the sight of the world? Not with their bodily eyes, but by faith. They perceived that He was still in reality with them, as He had been before. In the same sense He has been with His people ever since. And He has not ceased to do good. He is still the wise, the holy, the condescending, the loving, the mighty One. He still delights to bend His ear to the humblest of the children of men, to hearken to the cry of the destitute, to heal the broken-hearted, to counsel the erring, to comfort the mourners, to pardon the guilty, to cleanse the polluted, to save the lost. If there is a soul on earth at this moment that has true peace —peace that shall abide for ever,—and we may safely say that there are tens of thousands that are so blessed,—that blessing is the gift of the Lord Jesus, the purchase of His death. If there is a soul in the world at this hour that has a good hope of entering into heaven—and we may safely say that there are tens of thousands— that hope rests on Christ; for "there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." If there is one soul of those who have passed hence into eternity now in glory everlasting—and we may safely say that there is a multitude which no man can number—that glory is due entirely to Christ, without whose grace no sinner could ever have appeared in the bright mansions above.
Who is there, then, that can be compared with Him? When we consider His wonderful character, when we look at what He has done, is now doing, and will yet do—when we hear His gracious words and witness His mighty acts—we cannot but feel that He is to be admired above all others; we are prepared to say to Him with all our hearts, "Thou art fairer than the children of men."
And why is it that His matchless beauty has thus been set forth to us? Why is it that He has taken such pains to prove and to declare the surpassing greatness of the love He bears to us? Why is it that He has come to us, pressing on patiently and undauntedly along a hard and toilsome road—through sorrows and sufferings, through tears and blood? Why is it that He is now at the door of our hearts, pointing to all He has done for us, and pleading for acceptance? Why is it that this Person of matchless beauty is so condescending and so urgent with each of us, and so anxious that we should consider aright His claims and His worth? It is that He may win us to Himself, and make us partakers of His grace. He sees how miserable we are; and He would make us happy. He sees how poor we have made ourselves; and He would make us rich. He sees how hard the masters are to whom we have sold ourselves; and He would make us free. He sees how wretched our prospects are for eternity; and He would make them bright and glorious. He would not lose one of us; and He sees no good reason why any one of us should be lost. "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" He says. "Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live." It would grieve Him if even a single soul among us were left behind to perish. Therefore He is so winning. Therefore He would engage us by the sight of His beauty to love and to follow Him.
Such is the attitude which Christ has taken up with respect to each one of us—not now for the first time, but ever since He made known His name to us. From our very childhood He has sought to endear Himself to our hearts. Are we dutiful to Him? Are we returning His love? Is His Word our law? Is His honour dear to us? Is His presence our delight? Are His enemies our enemies? Are His friends our friends? Are His riches the riches we live for? Is His home the home in which we hope to dwell for ever?
The cause of all our misery is, that we are not true to Him. We turn our backs upon Him. We forget Him. We despise His warnings, and give heed to the enticements of sin. Matchless as He is, how ready are we to dishonour Him! Perfect as He is in wisdom, how ready are we to act as if we were wiser than He! Rich beyond all comparison as are the rewards He promises to them that are faithful unto Him, how ready are we to wander from His footsteps after empty pleasures, which last but for a moment and then vanish for ever! How imperfectly is He appreciated by even the best of men on earth! How poor a return is made to Him for His amazing condescension and love! Common as it is to have His name and words upon their lips, how little are either the rulers of the world or the humblest of the people acting as if they really felt that the King of kings was knocking at their doors, and calling upon them to hear and to obey Him! No wonder that confusion, and trouble, and perplexity vex the nations from year to year and from age to age, as long as He whose right it is to reign over all is so little regarded—as long as His will is so little consulted, and His law, which is above all other laws, is so generally trampled under foot. But His ultimate prosperity is sure to be realised. The progress of His kingdom no power can finally prevent. Though the nations may long persist in casting Him off, and in conducting themselves as if they said in their hearts, "We will not have this man to reign over us," yet the day will come when it shall be declared that all the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Anointed. Though Jesus has long been despised and rejected of men, yet the time is drawing nigh when "all kings shall fall down before Him, and all nations shall serve Him."
—George S. Smith