Edwards on Beauty and Virtue
Jonathan Edwards saw a definite connection between the beauty of Christ and our own pursuit of moral virtue. He affirmed, “Christ is above all others excellent, fairer than the sons of men, altogether lovely,” and they that find Christ have a “soul–satisfying portion,” and have discovered “the proper happiness of the soul.” Edwards lovingly speaks of the “diverse excellencies” of Christ, including infinite majesty and meekness, reverence toward and equality with God, his worthiness of good and patience under evil, obedience and supreme dominion, sovereignty and resignation, as well as his self-sufficiency and reliance. This “sweet conjunction of excellencies” is reason to take notice of the beauty of Christ. In conceiving of Jesus as possessing these contrasting attributes, as lion and lamb, as divine and human, Edwards maintains, “Such a conjunction of such infinite highness, and low condescension, in the same person is admirable.” In other words, we should see infinite beauty in the incarnate Christ and revel in the fact that our Savior is of such inestimable worth. Based on the sight of this beauty we are called to live in joyful obedience to God.
True virtue must chiefly consist in love to God; the Being of beings, infinitely the greatest and best of beings. . . God’s beauty is infinitely more valuable than that of all other being, and God has sufficiently exhibited himself, in his being, his infinite greatness and excellency: and has given us faculties, whereby we are capable of plainly discovering immense superiority to all other beings in these respects. Therefore he that has true virtue, consisting in benevolence to Being in general, and in that complacence in virtue, or moral beauty, and benevolence to virtuous being, must necessarily have a supreme love to God, both of benevolence and complacence.
Jeremy Kimble (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Cedarville University. He is an editor for Credo Magazine as well as the author of That His Spirit May Be Saved: Church Discipline as a Means to Repentance and Perseverance and numerous book reviews. He is married to Rachel and has two children, Hannah and Jonathan.