Monday, January 21, 2013

You're beautiful (John Flavel on Psalm 45)

Ye olde affectionate (charismatic?) puritan John Flavel preached on Psalm 45. Like Sibbes and Owen he was captured by the espousal theology of the gospel, the love of God for us in Christ. He preached:
Psalm 45 is an excellent song of love. A heavenly wedding song. It tells, figuratively, with elegant celebration, of the marriage of Christ and the church.  It's subject is the same as the Song of Songs.
The Psalm speaks of Christ and of his bride:
Among it's rapturous and elegant expressions in praise of the glorious bridegroom Christ is this: "God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows."  This Anointed One (Messiah/Christ) is enriched and filled supremely with the Spirit's fulness. He is consecrated to his office and out-shines and excels all the saints. Yet, every Christian is anointed with the same grace. It is the saints' dignity to be Christ's fellows. Whatever grace and excellence is in Christ is not just for Christ but is shared. He was filled with the fulness of the Spirit for their sake and use. As the sun is filled with light, not to shine to itself, but to others - so is Christ with grace. Christ is the first receptacle of grace, he is first and immediately filled from the fountain, the Godhead, but it is for his people who receive and derive from him.  
First Christ, then the Christ-ians:
If they are anointed with the Spirit of grace, much more abundantly is Christ. By the oil of gladness understand the Spirit of holiness. Oil had a sacred and a solemn use, in the inauguration and consecration of the Jewish kings and high priests. to make their limbs more agile, expedite, and nimbler to make the face shine, for it gave a lustre, freshness, and liveliness to the countenance. We are first ingrafted into Christ, and then we suck the sap and fatness of the root: first married to the person of Christ, then endowed and instated in the privileges and benefits of Christ.
Borrowing from Psalm 133:
As this precious oil runs down from Christ, the head, to the borders of his garments, I mean, as it is shed upon believers, so it exceedingly beautifies their faces, and makes them shine with glory. The Spirit kindles and maintains the flame of divine love in their souls, and, like a lamp, enlightens their minds in the knowledge of spiritual things; the anointing teaches them.  From the saints' union with Christ, there does naturally and immediately result a most sweet and blessed communion and fellowship with him in graces and spiritual privileges 
The saints have no fellowship with Jesus Christ in those things that belong to him as God; such as his consubstantiality, co-equality, and co-eternity with the Father. The saints have no communion or fellowship in the honour and glory of his mediatory works, viz. his satisfaction to God, or redemption of the elect.
Christ is the light, our light is borrowed from him:
But there are many glorious and excellent things which are in common between Christ and believers, though in them all he has the pre-eminence; he shines in the fulness of them, as the sun, and we with a borrowed and lesser light, but of the same kind and nature as the stars.
  • Believers have communion with Christ in his names and titles; they are called Christians from Christ He is the Son of God, and they also, by their union with him, have power or authority to become the sons of God, John 1:12. He is the heir of ail things, and they are joint-heirs with him, Rom. 8:17. He is both King and Priest, and he has made them kings and priests.
  • Believers have communion with Christ in his death; they die with him.
  • Believers have communion with Christ in his life and resurrection from the dead; as he rose from the dead, so do they; and that by the power and influence of his vivification and resurrection ; we do not only partake of what is his, but he partakes of what is ours 
O that believers did but understand their own happiness and privileges by Christ, they would never droop and sink under every small trouble at that rate they do! Job was happier upon the dunghill, than Adam was in paradise.
The gospel gives us union with Christ, let union be matched with communion:
O it is sweet to have fellowship with those that have fellowship with God in Jesus Christ. The increase of your sanctification, by fresh participations from the fountain; as cloth which is often dipped into the vat receives the deeper dye, and livelier tincture; so will your souls by assiduous communion with God. 
All that is ours, comes from Him. We sing, "you're beautiful" because The Crucified One is beautiful. Our divine spouse - our saviour through his suffering. Incomparable beauty. And, by his death and resurrection, his giving of himself to us - he now desires our beauty too. A beauty objectively ours by his gospel, and increasingly seen through our communion with him.

The gospel says God is to be enjoyed and he enjoys knowing us.


  1. So good. Wondering if when we teach people how to preach we ought to just get them to read this sort of thing repeatedly, until it flows out of them, rather than worrying about techniques...

  2. Many preachers do read this sort of thing! Needs filtering for style and language, but the heart sings. I guess I aim at this puritan heart through Andy Stanley's communication ethos...