By John Owen
"Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever." -- Ps. xlv. 2. 
I have given you an account of the general design and scope of this psalm already, and spoken something from the title of it, "To the chief Musician," etc.; and opened the 1st verse, and spoken something to that also, -- which is the preface to the whole psalm.
I shall now speak something to you from the 2d verse: "Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever." You know who it is that is intended in these words, -- namely, our Lord Jesus Christ, the King, the Messiah; and this is a description of him, which the psalmist gives in prophecy.
There are three parts of the verse:-- I. A description of Christ's person, "Thou art fairer than the children of men." II. An account of his endowments that were bestowed upon him to enable him to his work, "Grace is poured into thy lips." III. God's acceptance and approbation of him in his work, "Therefore God hath blessed thee for ever."
I. Here is a description of Christ's person, "Thou art fairer than the children of men."
You may consider it, -- 1. Absolutely, that Christ is fair. 2. Comparatively, that he is fairer than the children of men.
1. Absolutely: Christ is fair. He ascribes beauty to him. There is mention of the beauty of God in Ps. xxvii. 4, "To behold the beauty of the Lord;" -- that may concern his worship. But it is directly spoken of God himself, in Zech. ix. 17, "How great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!" As beauty among men consists in the symmetry of parts, so in God it is the harmony of all the divine perfections. The infinite harmony, agreeableness, suitableness of all divine perfections, I say, is this beauty. Christ is called fair, to denote his glorious perfections.
2. Comparatively: "Thou art fairer than the children of men;" that is, -- (1.) Than all worldly men. There is more excellency, more desirableness in Jesus Christ than in all the men of the world. (2.) More than in all those who were employed in the church, which is peculiarly here intended; more excellent than Moses and Aaron, -- than any of the kings and prophets of old, who yet were so desirable. Aaron had his garments made for beauty and for glory. But saith he, "Christ is more beautiful, more fair, than any of the children of men."
I told you the design of the psalm was, to speak of the kingdom of Christ, and to set forth the mutual love that is between Christ and his church; but yet, in the first place, he lays down this description of his person as the foundation, "Thou art fairer than the children of men."
I say, -- 1. Absolutely, Christ is fair; and we may observe from hence, that, in the consideration of Jesus Christ, if we intend any interest in him, and any benefit by him, the first thing we ought to know and consider, is his person. So the psalmist here, when he had designed the description of his kingdom and benefits, begins with his person. And if we know not the person of Christ we have no interest in him. The apostle, in Phil. iii. 10, shows what our design should be, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings," etc. First "know him," says he, before he speaks of the benefits of his mediation; which is consequential to the knowledge of himself. So he tells you, of the subject of his preaching, 1 Cor. ii. 2, "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified;" -- first Christ, and then him crucified; first his person, and then his mediation.
The reasons are, --
(1.) Because Jesus Christ will be loved and preferred above all for his own sake. He tells his disciples, Matt. x. 37, "He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me." If we intend to have any benefit by him, he must be valued above all for his own sake, or for the sake of what he is in himself. He puts it as a mark upon them that followed him, "Because of the loaves," John vi. 26. And if, without the knowledge of Christ, without a due consideration of his person, we think to follow him only for his benefits, for the advantage which we hope to have by him (which is to follow him for the loaves), we shall be found strangers to him, when we think we are in a better state and condition.
(2.) Without this, no man can secure his love and faith from being selfish, or from beginning and ending in self. For if we regard only those things whereof we have advantage, so that we may have our sin pardoned, our iniquities done away, and our souls saved, we would not care whether there were a Christ to trust in or no. But as this tends not to the glory of God, so neither will it tend to the advantage of our own souls. So that if we intend any interest in Christ, we must begin with his person, and the knowledge of it: "Thou art fairer than the children of men."
The use of this point is, --
First, To show how few real Christians there be in the world, -- seeing there are so few that have an acquaintance with, and a love unto, the person of Christ. Some deny him. We have a generation among ourselves that pretend to be Christians (I mean the Quakers), who deny the person of Christ, -- leave him neither the perfection of the Deity, nor humanity, nor the union of his natures; and have framed to themselves a religion without Christ, -- a carcase without a soul or life to quicken it, or enable it to be of any use. And there are others that evidence how little it is they value Christ. 1 Cor. ii. 8, "Had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." Do ye think, if men knew Christ, whatsoever they pretend, they would so despise his ways, his ordinances, his worship? -- prefer their own inventions and imaginations before them, and prosecute and persecute all that truly fear him, according to the power of their hand? Had they known him, they would not have done so. And the greatest part are perfectly sottish, -- brutishly ignorant concerning the person of Christ: yea, many to whom he hath been preached, it is to them like the wind, -- they hear a sound, but know not whence it comes, or what it means; perhaps they never had one serious thought in all their lives what Christ is, or who he is? -- wherein his excellencies do consist, or what they expect from him. O how few labour to have a familiar intercourse with this Saviour! How few say to wisdom, "Thou art my sister, and call understanding their kinswoman," as in Prov. vii. 4, speaking of Christ, who is the wisdom of God. They that know Christ, will make him as near and familiar to their souls as they can.
Secondly. This shows what great cause they have to rejoice, unto whom God hath revealed Christ. Matt. xvi. 13, etc., "Whom do men say I am?" saith Christ to his disciples. "And they said, Some say thou art John the baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." The world has very dark notions concerning Christ, -- like the blind man, that saw men like trees walking: but as for those who have the knowledge of Christ, they are blessed; "for flesh and blood hath not revealed it." It is the greatest spiritual revelation, and the greatest evidence that we have received any spiritual revelation from God, when we know the person of Christ. Let us be thankful for any revelation God hath made of Christ unto our souls; that we behold his person, and know him; that he is not a stranger unto us, but that our souls have some holy acquaintance with him.
And if God hath thus revealed Christ unto us, let us be manifesting to all the world that we are Christ's, when others are ashamed of him. How? By our prizing, valuing, preferring him above all other things; above the world, and all the satisfactions and enjoyments of the world; above its ways, pleasures, converse: we have better satisfaction, better acquaintance to converse with and retire unto.
2. Observe from the words, that, in the knowledge of Christ, what we should chiefly consider are the things wherein he is fairer than the children of men, wherein he is more excellent, and to be preferred above all other persons and things whatsoever.
Now, wherein is Christ fairer than the children of men?
I answer, In three things:--(1.) In the dignity of his person; (2.) In the excellency of his work; and, (3.) In the power and heavenliness of his doctrine. Many other instances may be given, but things may be gathered to these three heads; whereby we may make answer unto the question, that is tacitly asked of us by nominal professors in the world, which was asked of the spouse by the daughters of Jerusalem, Cant. v. 9, "What is thy beloved more than another beloved?" -- "What is there in Christ more than in other persons and things, that there is such a stir made about him?" I say, "He is fairer than the children of men."
(1.) In the dignity of his person. He is a more excellent person. Wherein consists the excellency of Christ's person? Truly, not at all in the outward appearance of his human nature, especially while here in the world. It is the foundation of all devotion among some, the making of glorious pictures of Christ; by which means to represent him fine and glorious. But what doth he speak of himself in Ps. xxii. 6? "I am a worm, and no man." He was brought to that low condition that he was of no esteem, of no reputation. But if we could have had a sight of him, how comely would he have been! Why, "he had neither form nor comeliness," in his outward appearance, "that when we should see him we should desire him," Isa. liii. 2; -- wherein, then, consists the dignity of his person? In two things:--
[1.] In the glory of his divine nature. [2.] In the immeasurable fulness of his human nature with grace:-- [1.] In his divine glory. Phil. ii. 6, "Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Here is his glory. Also in John i. 14, "We beheld his glory." Wherein consists that glory? "The glory of the only begotten of the Father."
If you ask us, "What is our beloved more than another beloved?" -- "What is there in Christ, that our souls are sick of love for him, breathe and pant after the enjoyment of him, and that continually?" It is because we have seen his glory who is God blessed for ever.
[2.] It consists in the immeasurable, unspeakable fulness of grace that was given to his human nature. It is what I have as much thought of as any one thing, concerning the immeasurable fulness of grace which is in the human nature of Christ. So saith the apostle, John iii. 34, "God gave not the Spirit by measure unto him." How by measure? "To every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ," Eph. iv. 7. We have every one of us a measure; but it is given to him without a measure. There is an immeasurable fulness of grace in the human nature of Christ, which we are partakers of; "for of his fulness we all receive, and grace for grace." It is an infinity in the divine nature, transferred into the human nature of Christ, and through him communicated unto our souls. From the eternal fountain of the divine nature, through the human nature of Christ, which hath an immeasurable fulness, as the head of the church, it is, I say, transfused to all his members. In this he is "fairer than the children of men."
(2.) He is so in the excellency of his work. The work that Christ did was such as none ever did or could do, but only he himself. It is true, "The law was given by Moses," but "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ," John i. 17. Could not the law give grace, and do this business, so as to bring in an everlasting righteousness, pardon sin, save the soul, make us accepted with God? No; Rom. viii. 3, "What the law could not do, that God, sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, did." But there were sacrifices of the law; when men had sinned, they could make atonement. No; "Sacrifice and burnt-offerings thou wouldest not. Then said I, Lo, I come to do thy will," Ps. xl. 7. But would there not be righteousness, if men observe the law, and follow after it? Alas! they could not obtain it; Rom. x. 3, 4, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." So that neither the deeds of the law, nor the sacrifices of the law, nor the righteousness of the law, will do. "The redemption of our souls is precious," and would have ceased for ever, if Christ had not been found to undertake this work. When there was but a book to be opened of revelations for the church, none was found worthy to open it, until Christ prevailed, Rev. v. 2, etc. If there could be no new revelations made but only by Christ, much less could any in heaven or earth redeem the souls of men from death and hell, bring them into favour with God, and work out eternal redemption for them.
(3.) He is more excellent than all the sons of men, in the revelation he has made of the will of God. Christ has made such a revelation of the will, love, and grace of God, as none of the children of men ever saw before.
These are the things we ought to consider in Christ, as he is fairer than the children of men, in the dignity of his person, in the excellency of his work, and in the glory of his revelation.
You will say, "Why should we consider Christ in these his incomparable excellencies?" I answer, --
[1.] That our hearts be not taken away nor engrossed by the children of men, and what belongs unto them, -- their glory, their honours, their lusts, their pleasures, their righteousness. If we would not have our hearts allured and drawn off with them, the way is, to exercise our faith upon the incomparable excellencies of the Lord Jesus Christ. Can the world be to us an all-sufficient God, and a great reward? Can the world pardon our sins, save our souls, deliver us from wrath to come, reveal to us the mystery of truth from the bosom of the Father? Can it make known the mind of God? communicate grace and love to us? If it cannot, then let us dwell in our thoughts on him who is fairer than the children of men.
[2.] The consideration of these excellencies in Christ is exceedingly suited to increase faith and love in us. They are the proper objects in Christ of these graces. What is it we believe and love? Do not we believe in Christ as the Son of God, as God-man in one person? do not we love him as he is so? do not we believe he hath made atonement for us? and do not we believe and love the excellency of his work? Then the exercise of our thoughts upon these things is the way to increase faith and love in us. And the great reason why we are so weak in our faith, and so cold in our love, is, because we exercise our souls no more to immediate, direct thoughts upon Christ and his excellencies. We live by reflex considerations upon the benefits of Christ; but if we could exercise our souls more directly in daily thoughts of Christ in faith and love, we should increase more in these graces, and be more transformed into his likeness. "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image," etc., 2 Cor. iii. 18. It is not such a cheap thing to be a Christian as most imagine. What wandering thoughts have the generality of Christians about Christ, and never once examine into their thoughts whether they have any spiritual acquaintance with him or no!
II. The second thing to consider in the words is, -- the endowment of Christ, in his human nature, for the discharge of this great office and work, which is here ascribed unto him in this psalm, set forth by grace being poured into his lips.
And there are three things that may be observed:-- 1. The nature of this endowment; and that is, grace. 2. The manner of its communication, and that is, poured; it is not dropped, but poured. 3. The seat of it, being communicated; grace is poured into his lips.
1. The nature of this endowment; it is grace.
Grace in Scripture is taken two ways:-- (1.) For inherent grace and holiness, or the graces of the Spirit. Things that are bestowed upon men, and wrought in them, they are called grace, the same as the principle of spiritual life. (2.) Grace is taken externally for favour and love. "Ye are saved by grace;" that is, by the free favour of God.
It is here taken in the first sense, for the internal principle of grace and holiness. This was poured into the lips of Christ. Grace in the second sense is also mentioned in the last clause of the verse, "Therefore God hath blessed thee for ever."
And we may observe, in reference to the seat of it, that it hath particular respect unto the prophetical office of Christ, whereby he discharged his duty in the revelation of the will of God. Christ did manifest and evidence grace in all he did and said in this world, as the lips are the way of manifesting the mind.
It is the first of these things I shall chiefly discourse on, -- namely, the endowment that renders the human nature of Christ so exceedingly desirable and glorious, is grace.
That which rendered Christ so beautiful, so desirable, and glorious, was not secular wisdom, though there was in him the greatest fulness of all wisdom; it was not the pomp, the greatness, the glory of the world, outward ornaments, or any thing that men esteem: no, it was that which men hate and persecute that rendered Christ so beautiful and glorious. God did not endow Christ with riches; no, he was poor, so poor that he had not where to lay his head: nor with bodily appearance; for he was a worm, and no man. But saith God, "I will render him glorious." How? He shall be full of grace. "We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father." "We saw it," say they: "the world saw nothing but a poor man, whom they despised; but we saw his glory." And what was that glory? "He was full of grace," John i. 14. Even the glory of Jesus Christ consists in grace.
And why doth this glory of Christ consist in grace? For these three ends:--
(1.) Because in this internal grace consists the reparation of the image of God. All the glory that God thought meet to communicate to his creature man (and it was unspeakable, and all he designed him for), was to make him in his own image and likeness. This was the glory God intended; every thing else doth but follow it. Now, we left this image, and became as like the devil as if we had been begotten by him. John viii. 44, We are the children of the devil, he is our father; we are a "generation of vipers," -- the seed of the serpent by nature. But it is grace that doth repair and renew this image of God. It is grace that makes a representation of God unto us; and therefore doth Christ's glory consist in grace. The apostle tells us so, 2 Cor. iv. 6, "We behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." How is that? Why, in that abounding grace that was in Christ there is made such a representation of God, that there we may see his likeness. It is the human nature of Christ that makes the great representation of God, because he hath all that which is the image and likeness of God -- namely, grace in the fulness of it -- in him.
(2.) This grace is the glory of Christ, because it is that which inclines the heart of Jesus Christ unto all that goodness and kindness that he hath showed unto us. Whence was it that Jesus Christ loved us so as to lay down his life for us? whence does he continue to have compassion on us, even when we were ignorant, and wandered out of the way? It is from that abounding, unspeakable, heavenly love that was in his heart and soul, that inclined him to it. The more grace we have, the more we have of love, compassion, and delight in doing the will of God. But there was that abundance in Christ that inclined him to do all this good for us, -- to live, to die, to intercede for us. This makes Christ very beautiful and glorious to the eye of faith.
(3.) It is the glory of Christ, as he is the great example and pattern, whereunto we ought to labour after a conformity. When we had lost all, and wandered up and down, it was not enough that we should have a rule set us, but we must, moreover, have a pattern to follow; we must be like unto Christ. And there is an unconquerable desire implanted in the heart of every believer in the world to be like unto Jesus Christ; because God hath, in the way of an ordinance, appointed him to be our pattern. And we are but trifling Christians, and a dishonour to our profession, if we make not this the design of our souls continually, -- that we may be in the world as Christ was, -- that the same mind may be in us that was in him, Phil. ii. 5; the same meekness, humility, self-denial, faith, love, patience, that was in him.
To close in a way of use; -- if this internal grace and holiness was that wherein Christ was fairer than the children of men, because grace was poured into his lips; then, --
1. Let us learn to esteem it above all other things. That which rendered Christ beautiful, will render us so: not in the eyes of the world; -- no, it did not render Christ so to the world; the more he abounded in grace, the more they despised him; -- but it renders us beautiful in the sight of God and all the holy angels, and in the judgment of all believers upon earth. If we be but like unto Christ in any measure, it will render us fair, beautiful, desirable in the eyes of all that have eyes to see and hearts to discern it.
2. Let us not value so much the lustre, the splendour, and glory that earthly men have in earthly things, -- in their riches, power, honour, and the like. How apt are we to fret ourselves sometimes at the thoughts of these things; and think they have a peculiar happiness, -- that they are so great and glorious as they appear and make a show of! But God knows there is nothing in them but what is the object of his contempt, and of all the saints and angels, and will be so to all eternity.
 This sermon was preached at Stadham, June 14, 1674.