Articles

“A Constellation of Graces”

From my blog


I am unsure why the idea of beauty embarrasses me, as though my thoughts are too defective to confess. Often it seems to me that my beauty receptors process input in blunt chunks.

Objects–dwellings, clothing, the stuff of life–engage me with their utility, and beauty somehow is optional. The miraculous intricacies of creation–animal, botanical, and mineral, of the earth, sea, and visible heavens–captivate me; nevertheless, I fear my appreciation is terribly analytical.

But that isn’t what distresses me. The huge and terrible question is: Do I find beauty in Christ? This is where diffidence grips and I fear I am casehardened.

Certainly I find beauty in his Word. But, “He is altogether lovely“ (SS 5:16) refers to a Person, not to a Word. But this Person is the Word…is the Word the sole repository of his beauty? Is seeing beauty in the Word sufficient to apprehend “the beauty of Christ,” the altogether loveliness? And, I can be analytical with the Word….

So in my distraction I turn to my therapist, Dr. John Owen, who died in 1683, but left a therapeutic legacy of systematic theology. Owen, always on deck with a lifeline, assures me that Christ is indeed beautiful, and his beauty is something I can begin to take in. His beauty is in his Word, because he is there. His beauty is his wisdom, his pondering the “hidden man of the heart;” it is his eminency, his strength, his faithfulness, and his stability. Dr. Owen wrote that prescription for me.

Owen writes more than 20 pages specifically on the subject of the beauty of Christ in Vol. II, Communion With God (Banner of Truth) pp. 56-78. The rest of this volume and much of his other work is also rife with the subject, if not as specifically. I am not given to typing exercises, but he lists 11 ways in which Christ is “lovely.” From Owen’s exposition on the beauty of Christ, I will here extract one crystalline sentence:

“There is light in him, and life in him, and power in him, and all consolation in him;–a constellation of graces, shining with glory and beauty.” (The Works of John Owen, Banner of Truth, Vol. II, p. 75)

That, I find beautiful.

I remain diffident about my blunt chunk approach. I am consoled that this has little to do with beauty in a way that I need to understand it.

To know something of the light and the life and the power and the consolation of Christ is to know something of his beauty.

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