Christ is Altogether Lovely

Christ’s loveliness is transcending. He is more lovely than all created excellencies. If you compare Christ and other things, be they never so lovely, never so excellent and desirable; Christ carries away all loveliness from them; “He is (saith the apostle) 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 excellency: In all things he must have the pre-eminence. For let us but compare Christ’s excellency with the creature’s in a few particulars, and how evidently will the transcendent loveliness of Jesus Christ appear!

  1. All other loveliness is derivative and secondary; but the loveliness of Christ original and primary. Angels and men, the world and all the desirables in it, receive what excellency they have from him; they are streams from the fountain. But as the waters in the fountain itself are more abundant, so more pure and pleasant* than in the streams. And the farther any thing departs, and is removed from its fountain and original, the less excellency there is in it.
  2. The loveliness and excellency of all other things, is but relative and respective, consisting in its reference to Christ, and subserviency to his glory; but Christ is lovely, considered absolutely in himself: He is desirable for himself, other things are so for him.
  3. The beauty and loveliness of all other things is fading and perishing; but the loveliness of Christ is fresh to all eternity: the sweetness of the best creatures is a fading flower; if not before, yet certainly at death it must fade away. Job 4:21. “Doth not their excellency, which is in them, go away?” Yes, yes, whether natural excellencies of the body, or acquired endowments of the mind, lovely features, amiable qualities, attracting excellencies; all these like pleasant flowers are withered, faded, and destroyed by death; “but Christ is still the same, yesterday, to day, and for ever,” Heb. 13:8.
  4. The beauty and holiness of creatures are ensnaring and dangerous; a man may make an idol thereof, and dote beyond the bounds of moderation upon 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 sick of love to Christ, Cant. 5:8.
  5. The loveliness of every creature is of a cloying and glutting nature; our estimation of it abates and sinks by our nearer approach to it, or longer enjoyment of it: creatures, like pictures, are fairest at a due distance, but it is not so with Christ; the nearer the soul approacheth him, and the longer it lives in the enjoyment of him, still the more sweet and desirable is he.
  6. All other loveliness is unsatisfying and straitening to the soul of man; there is not room enough in any one, or in all the creatures for the soul of man to dilate and expatiate itself; but it still feels itself confined and narrowed within those strait limits: And this comes to pass from the inadequateness and unsuitableness of the creature, to the nobler and more excellent soul of man, which like a ship in a narrow river hath not room to turn; and besides, is ever and anon striking ground and foundering in those shallows. But Jesus Christ is every way adequate to the vast desires of the soul; in him it hath sea-room enough; there it may spread all its sails, no fear of touching the bottom.

And thus you see what is the importance of this phrase, Altogether lovely.

—John Flavel,
Adapted from The Whole Works of the Reverend John Flavel, 2:216–218.