The Person of Christ
by Joseph Orton
Delivered Lord's day Afternoon, September 7th, 1873
The Psalmist opens this Psalm of his with this expression, "My heart is inditing a good matter," or, as it is expressed in the margin, "boileth or bubbleth up," like something heated in a pot or pan, it could not rest, there were the thoughts, and there was, as it were, a fire underneath that caused it to agitate, as we know anything of that kind does when put in a pot or pan over a fire. He was so ready to speak; he was, as it were, compelled to, from the abundance of what was in him, the subject of which, he says, was the things which he had made touching the King, the thoughts which had been conceived in his mind, the meditations of his heart concerning Zion's King; and such were they in his mind, that he was ready to speak of them. When a person has a knowledge of anything, it is a rare matter but what he finds words to express that which he has much at heart; being so in his heart, it will cause his tongue to utter it forth, as it did with the Psalmist, "My tongue is the pen of a ready writer."
He comes on to the subject at once. "Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips: therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever." There is no round-about way, no multitude of words used to express that which is uppermost, but as though others must understand it, in a short abrupt manner he expresses these thoughts of his heart. "Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever." And a little further down in the psalm it gives a further description of Him. "All Thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made Thee glad. (Ps. 45:8,7) Therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows." Here we have a description of that which caused so sweet a savour to the souls of those that were nigh unto Him, this anointing which God had anointed Him with, till it made all His garments smell, as though anointed with myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces.
In speaking from the words I have read, I would notice this first part of the verse first: "Thou art fairer than the children of men." How the Lord of glory is said to be seen by His people, and what effect that sight has upon them. It is a sight comparatively, not fully; for the full and complete sight of Him is reserved for that state when time is not, when eternity will have been opened to us, when the Lord of glory shall come again the second time, and we shall see Him as He is. But now, during time, we only see comparatively, we know but in part, we see but in part. "But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." (1 Cor. 13:9,10) Then we shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known. So in this time state all the sight and knowledge we have of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom this Psalm speaks, is but in part, or comparatively, not fully. That it does speak of Him, that He is here represented, the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews fully attests, for it quotes from it with respect to the nature and office of the Son. "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with oil of gladness above Thy fellows." (Ps. 45:6,7)
We first then will notice here how it is that this Person is "fairer than the children of men," why it is so. And in so doing, show it as near as I can from the Scriptures of Truth, and in as brief a manner as I can.
The Lord, who is here spoken of - Zion's King, who is here set forth unto us, is a complex Person, God and Man in one blessed and glorious Person. As God, He is the eternal Son of the Father: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." He is One with the Father. But as He is God-Man, or God and Man in one Person, that human nature He took in the virgin's womb, flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone. It speaks not of His eternal Deity when it says, "Thou art fairer than the children of men," but of His human nature, His manhood. Godhead was not changed into flesh and blood, nor was flesh and blood and a human soul changed into Deity; but both remain what they were, and ever will do so. But the two are united in the One Person of Christ. He, who is the Son of God, is man; and He who was the son of the virgin born in Bethlehem, and laid in the manger, and at length crucified of Calvary's tree, is the eternal Son of God; the two natures not forming a third by mixture, as many things do, forming a co-mingling affinity, but remain still the same what they were, though in union; no mixture, but a union of the two. It is not the human nature that we worship, but the Godhead, He who is the eternal Son of God, though a man, and we worship that Man, not as He is human nature, but it is the God, who is there, that we worship. Poor creatures who eat the flesh, as they say, by transmuting by some conjuring trick or other the wafer, the bread, into the body of the Lord Jesus Christ are guilty of idolatry. The flesh is not God, but it is the nature of the Son of God assumed, and took as His very own, never to part with it. I do not like to use comparisons, because we might have our minds led astray by them, unless the Scriptures positively speak of them, but He took our nature, and dwelt here in it, sojourned among us, lived, and died; and it is His own, which He took never to part with. Through that assumption of His, taking our nature as His own, God and man meet in the one Person of Christ. Adam never was in such a state of nearness to his Creator as is the human nature of the Son of God in union with the Divine nature. Adam was but a creature in his best estate: but the body prepared for the Son of God was taken into union with Him as His own. God and man there meet together in a Divine union, and that is our mercy.
People talk about their "ifs" and "buts," and of separation from the Lord Jesus Christ. Is the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ ever to be separated from Him, and to be damned? Never. Then the sheep of Christ never can be separated from Him. Here in Christ the Lord there is a meeting between God and us poor mortals, and, as Hart expresses it,
A blessed union! And He delighted in it, He took it, kept it, received it as His own, raised it again from the dead, and exalted it high; and God the Father exalted Him there at His right hand, welcomed Him as the Man Christ Jesus to His right hand in glory. He took notice of it, He was choice of it, and cared for it.
What sort of nature was it? Flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone, but not defiled as we are. That human nature the Son of God took was not in Adam's loins, that Adam should be a federal head unto Him. Though He took flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, He lay not there till the promise came, and that was after the fall. Adam was no federal head to Him, for He was not a child born as we were born. He was conceived of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin, formed there by the miraculous power of God. And who else could bring a clean thing out of an unclean? (Job 14:4) Not one. But God did, and He brought a human nature, body and soul, pure and spotless, into the world, when the Son of God was born a babe in Bethlehem.
It was that spotless human nature, that perfect freedom from all that is defiling, corrupting, and evil before God, that is the reason why it is said He was "fairer than the children of men." There was no spot, no blemish, no flaw found in Him. The Son of God did not take a sinful nature like ours, nor a nature that it was possible to corrupt like ours. I mean that was liable to death, that had the seeds of corruption in it. He did not take it in that way, but in its purity, in its spotless nature as the creation of God, and as such He preserved it. That it was so, we find the Scriptures telling us.
When speaking of it comparatively, speaking of the Church of God, it says, "Thou art all fair, my love." And why? "There is no spot in thee." (Songs 4:7) And Paul, writing to Church of Christ at Ephesus, and speaking of the work of Christ unto them, says, "That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (Eph. 5:26,27)
Here was that fairness and beauty which was in the Lord of glory. Now it is said that His Church and people get a sight of Him as such in this His perfection; for the Psalmist, speaking of Him, says, "My heart is inditing a good matter," - boiling, or bubbling up with it, ready to overflow. "I speak of the things which I have made touching the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer." And then at once bursts forth into this expression: "Thou art fairer than the children of men."
It is not all the world who see this, for we are told, "When we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him." (Isa. 53:2,3) But why is it? It is on this wise. They who thus looked, looked at Him with their worldly, carnal eyes; and, in the light of that apprehension of glory which worldly eyes and worldly minds look at and admire, there was no form nor appearance of earthly glory or grandeur found in Him; He was what they esteemed mean and despised, for He was the Friend of publicans and sinners; His associates were not great men, men of note in the world, so that all that external grandeur and all that was pleasing to the carnal mind was absent from Him; He was poor and despised, and instead of being a man to make feasts, to give what we call parties, He had nothing of the kind with Him but was, as it were, lacking all things; though He fed the hungry with good things, we find He wrought a miracle to do it. So they saw no beauty nor glory in Him; they looked with worldly eyes, like as people do who go to fine places of worship that attract a great many, the appearance of things in worldly form and grandeur has an attraction upon the mind, and so they go.
But the Lord of glory speaks to us about evil report, bearing the cross, losing the life for His sake; His kingdom not being of this world, and so His servants not fighting for Him; others took Him and put Him to a shameful and agonizing death; there was no appearance of earthly glory or grandeur, no form nor comeliness that He should be desired by them.
But it is the saints of God who are taught by the Spirit of God, and they alone, who behold this beauty in the Lord of glory, with eyes which see not according to the course which this world takes, but eyes that see things in the light that God Almighty gives.
What then is that light in which we behold the Son of God Incarnate, that Man who has no form nor comeliness in Him to the eyes of the world, that we should see a fairness, a comeliness, and beauty in His Person so as to admire Him, to adore Him? It is in this way. The Scriptures tell us, they that are whole care not about a physician, they need not one, but they that are sick do. "I came not to call the righteous "- the Son of God tells us - "but sinners to repentance." (Matt. 9:13) So it is.
Nor see they anything in the Son of God incarnate that He should be so desirable to them, so fair and glorious in their eyes. But it is unto those who know what sin is, which God in His infinite mercy does teach us, and leads us to see that it is a bitter and a hateful thing. There is a teaching by which God teaches us, and draws us to the Son of His love. "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44) And that drawing which the Father makes use of to draw us to the Son of His love, in one particular feature of it, lies here. He teaches us what fallen nature is, how we stand exposed to His just wrath, and justly so, on account of our sins, the corruption of our nature, and the ruin that we have brought upon it, as God's creatures. There is in many a fear of punishment, or of eternal wrath. In some it is the only feature that they have; but God works together with that another thing in His own elect, a knowledge of what sin is, and what corruption has brought upon us - the evil nature of sin, its defilement, its abominable nature as opposed to God, and as ruinous to us, and as a thing that is very defiling, very hateful, and very abominable, a thing that causes us to stink in our own nostrils. You have heard speak of the conviction of sin by the Holy Ghost; He convinces many of sin, and damns them for it, like He did the Jews for crucifying the Son of God; but if ever He teaches us, and gives us a right knowledge of what our state is, the Holy Ghost leads us to see the horrible nature of sin before God, and you will find there is a hell in it, a hell while we are here on earth, and for ever and ever if we are not saved from it, and cleansed from it. This makes a man dead unto himself.
When a soul sees he has a God to do with, a God who is eternally holy and just, this causes death to come. "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." (Rom. 7:9)
Unless there be some knowledge of the defiling, filthy and abominable nature of sin itself which dwells in us, as well as the knowledge that God is a holy God and will condemn us for it; unless there be this knowledge, that sin is defiling, that it dwells in us, that it corrupts us in every part, that we are a mass of putrefaction, through the indwelling of sin in our mortal bodies, we shall never see the beauty and glory in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was free from it, who was without spot or blemish, or any such thing, who was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners," (Heb. 7:26) we shall never see the beauty and glory in Him, that He was all over fair, all beauty, without any flaw or blemish whatsoever. When God Almighty had taught Paul what the evil of sin was, and its defiling nature, he speaks of His revealing His Son in him, "When it pleased God...to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood." (Gal. 1:16) What had flesh and blood to do to be conferred with? A body of flesh and blood being in that state of enmity, defilement, and corruption, altogether opposed to the Son of God, altogether dissimilar to Him. Why then should he have conferred with it? He says, "I conferred not with flesh and blood." He preached Him immediately among the Gentiles. God revealed His Son in him as the spotless Lamb of God.
What a mercy it was human nature, flesh of ours, and bone of ours that the Son of God thus took! What a mercy that He thus took it, or that He was born unto us! As God gave His own Son, so this Child was born unto us. Who could stand before God without Him? He did not come on His own account alone. He came down from heaven for us men, and for our salvation. He took human nature in this way. He preserved it, it was His own, He delighted to take it. He wanted to have union with us, that there should be communion between us, a living, vital union, and through that union the communication of His rich grace, and the thoughts and purposes of His soul unto us. So He took our nature, that, through that, the union can come, through that, the communion can come, that there can be a communication through the Person of the Son of God Incarnate of all the thoughts and purposes of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost unto us poor mortals. God and man can meet there. God is holy: His creatures were all pure and good as He made them; man sinned, and brought all corruption into the world. God gave His Son, prepared a nature for Him, that His grace might flow to us. Then whatsoever the Son is, as He is God's gift to us, He is to us. Is He spotless and without blemish? He is spotless and without blemish, that we may stand complete and accepted in Him. Did He die for us an atoning sacrifice? Then it was that sin might be put away by His blood-shedding, and reconciliation made by it, that all that justice had against us might be put away, and so justice satisfied, and God and man reconciled in the Person of Christ, God have no wrath, no anger, no fury against us, and that we should be reconciled unto God by the death of His Son.
Here, in the Person of Christ, we have this complete righteousness; it is not in us fallen creatures. This body will have to be taken to pieces, piece by piece, and return to the dust whence it was taken, the particles taken from each other, and sin for ever taken from them, ere this mortal body shall be free from sin. But when the Son of God shall come, it will be raised from the dead, and fashioned like unto His glorious body; then we shall be ever with Him, see Him as He is, and be like Him. But while in this time state, it is not so; no creature perfection in us. But He will wash it, and cleanse it; He will wash it "with the washing of water by the Word." Sin shall not have dominion over us. When He comes the second time there will be the conformity to His image, for we shall see Him as He is, and be like Him.
We hear by faith; faith believes the report about Him, the description of His Word, the testimony borne of God's good will and pleasure concerning us; faith hears it, and receives it, and relies upon it as the Truth of God that cannot lie. We have a Daysman, a Covenant Head, the Son of God, through whom the unsearchable riches of God's grace come; it is the Son of God Incarnate, who took our flesh and dwelt among us, who took flesh because the children were partakers of flesh and blood, that He might be one with us, and the grace, that was in God from everlasting, might find a vent to us, and run unto us.
So we see in Him a Person without spot or wrinkle, without any flaw whatever, in whom God can see nothing but what is desirable as a Man, as One who is flesh of ours, blood of ours, and bone of ours, that God can see no fault in Him.
This is "the Lord our righteousness," (Jer. 23:6; Jer. 33:16) this is that Person who is made of God unto us righteousness. (1 Cor. 1:30) And He is "the Wisdom of God" too; for who could have ever thought of such a thing? It is the highest perfection of wisdom; it is a righteousness that it is impossible to break, or make a flaw in, it is "the righteousness of God." God would not establish us upon a shakeable foundation, but He would fix us upon the Rock of Ages, that never could move; infinite wisdom would see to it that He fixed us on the eternal Rock of Ages, the unchanging God made a righteousness there for us. O! what wisdom is God's wisdom! and what goodness is His! that He should give us such a gift, fix us on such a foundation, bestow upon us such grace, that the very righteousness He would accept us in would be the righteousness of God - God's own, His own work, His own keeping, His own securing. Satan found his match, and more than his match here. He came to tempt the Man Christ Jesus; there was the unchanging God, and that God took our nature, and is the unchanging God. He could not sin - that manhood was upheld by the mighty power of God. Here we have One to look at as full of all the perfection of beauty in every lineament - no feature but what is perfect, no action but what is right.
"Thou art fairer than the children of men." It is that sight that makes a real Christian, the sight of Immanuel, God with us.
Some people fear that God will judge them, and so they make a profession of religion, but see no beauty and glory in the Lord of hosts; their natural conscience accuses and excuses, so they cannot rest at peace, but must have some religion of some kind. The Scriptures speak of it (it is expressed in the margin, though not in the text.) "Through the greatness of Thy power shall Thine enemies yield feigned obedience unto Thee" - in the text it is "submit themselves unto Thee." (Ps. 66:3) And in the 18th Psalm we read, Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and Thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve Me. As soon as they hear of Me, they shall obey Me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto Me" - or "yield feigned obedience unto Me." (Ps. 18:43,44) But no beauty nor glory is beheld in the Person of Christ by them. Now when the powers of darkness come upon such characters as these, the Scriptures say, "in time of temptation they fall away." (Luke 8:13) Here is the rock unbroken, here are all the seeds of evil in their hearts, the thorns, briars and weeds of various kinds never cut down, nor their poisonous nature known nor understood; so when persecution arises for the Word's sake, they are offended at the cross, they see no beauty in the Lord Jesus Christ. And in the other, "the cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful."
Such is their state, and why is it? The ground was unbroken; there was no showing up of what corruption was, of what sin was in its nature, nor a revelation of the Lord of glory in His complete perfection, so that a beauty, a glory, and desirability shall be found in Him which begets that love of our souls unto Him. In the other you will observe, instead of there being a love to the Lord of glory, it is a desire for self, and a very anxious desire to obtain.
Some people will talk of heaven, and seem very anxious to get there; other people will talk of hell, and speak of it as a deceitful place to be avoided. There is the Person of the Lord of glory, there is the Lord of hosts Himself. "The Lord is my portion, saith my soul." (Lam. 3:24) There is none in heaven nor on earth I desire besides Thee. Paul found it the same in the earnest desire after having the Lord of glory for himself. It was that which upheld him through dangers, persecutions and trials. There is a beauty and glory in the Person of Christ that draws forth the love of our souls unto Him. So Paul says, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ let him be Anathema Maranatha." (1 Cor. 16:22) "Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips: therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever."
May the Lord add His blessing to these few thoughts.