Below is an excerpt from George Whitefield’s sermon entitled Christ the Best Husband, preached to a Society of Young Ladies. Please read it, and then I will comment briefly (*cough).
Consider who the Lord Jesus is, whom you are invited to espouse yourselves unto. He is the best husband. There is none comparable to Jesus Christ. Do you desire one that is great? He is of the highest dignity, he is the glory of heaven, the darling of eternity, admired by angels, dreaded by devils and adored by saints. For you to be espoused to so great a king, what honour will you have by this espousal?
Do you desire one that is rich? None is comparable to Christ, the fullness of the earth belongs to him. If you be espoused to Christ, you shall share in his unsearchable riches. You shall receive of his fullness, even grace for grace here and you shall hereafter be admitted to glory and shall live with this Jesus to all eternity.
Do you desire one that is wise? There is none comparable to Christ for wisdom. His knowledge is infinite and his wisdom is correspondent thereto. And if you are espoused to Christ, he will guide and counsel you and make you wise unto salvation.
Do you desire one that is strong, who may defend you against your enemies and all the insults and reproaches of the Pharisees of this generation? There is none that can equal Christ in power, for the Lord Jesus Christ hath all power.
Do you desire one that is good? There is none like unto Christ in this regard; others may have some goodness but it is imperfect. Christ’s goodness is complete and perfect, he is full of goodness and in him dwelleth no evil.
Do you desire one that is beautiful? His eyes are most sparkling, his looks and glances of love are ravishing, his smiles are most delightful and refreshing unto the soul. Christ is the most lovely person of all others in the world.
Do you desire one that can love you? None can love you like Christ: His love, my dear sisters, is incomprehensible; his love passeth all other loves: The love of the Lord Jesus is first, without beginning. His love is free without any motive. His love is great without any measure. His love is constant without any change and his love is everlasting.
I know you’re dying to know my thoughts, so here they are:
1. Both men and women are “the Bride of Christ.” The Bride of Christ is the church, and both men and women have become children of God throughout the ages. Therefore, those men and women both must learn what it is to be Christ’s “Bride.” There are other scenarios in the Bible that reflect our union with Christ, and this one will be easier for women, as it’s more in our nature to look for and to a husband to fulfill our particular, unique-to-us needs and desires. But men and women both have needs and desires that only Christ can meet, and we all need to learn to desire Christ who is rich, wise, strong, good, beautiful, and loving.
I can see how this little exercise might make a guy uncomfortable. But Christ is who He is — the perfect Husband. We are who we are — His Bride. And my question would be, if an earthly husband cannot see and relate to God in those ways, then how is an earthly husband going to imitate God in those ways? How will he be a good provider, a wise leader, a strong defender, good, and beautiful in that his eyes reflect his love for his bride? How will his smiles delight and refresh her soul if he does not recognize love from Christ toward him and therefore works on living love out toward his bride? How will he be a loving husband who has no eyes for another, whose love is constant if he cannot or will not look at himself as someone who needs the same from Christ? Husbandry, it would seem, is not something one can learn solo, but only by looking to the One who is the Best Husband, the Perfect Husband.
Granted, wives are not to expect perfection from their husbands. That’s why this sermon was preached to young women — because they often do desire the perfect mate, before and after the vows are said, and Whitefield’s point is: you want perfection? Look to Christ. He is your Husband who will never fail you. Your husband (lowercase h) is fallible. He will fail you, probably before you drive off in your convertible with a JUST MARRIED sign on the back, pop cans clanging against the concrete. But when disappointment comes, look to Christ, your true Savior. Learn to get your ultimate satisfaction, protection, wisdom, beauty, etc. from Him, whilst encouraging your husband follow in the Perfect Husband’s footsteps.
2. There’s no mention of the bride’s (lowercase b) beauty in Whitfield’s sermon. Plenty about Christ’s beauty, though. He says, “His eyes are the most sparkling, his looks and glances of love are ravishing, his smiles are most delightful and refreshing unto the soul. Christ is the most lovely ….”
Whitefield doesn’t go on to quote I Peter 3:4, but his words about bridal beauty, or lack thereof, remind ladies to “not let our adorning be external — the braiding of hair and the putting on of fine jewelry, or the clothing we wear — but to let our adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” It is not a sin to be a beautiful bride, but the admonition is to be beautiful to Christ. We are not beautiful solely because our husband says so. Or because we look like a Cover Girl model. True beauty comes from a heart that is gentle and quiet, and the external adorning will reflect what’s in the heart. If we’re beautiful inside (according to God’s standards), our faces will be radiant. They will reflect God’s, just as Moses’ did once he met with Him on the mountain (Ex. 34:29). And our clothing will draw others to our beautiful, radiant face, rather than … elsewhere.
Lust can take place in the heart of a man no matter how we adorn ourselves. A woman may dress modestly, but that doesn’t ensure no man will lust. Still, women are responsible for their actions. Men are responsible for theirs. Therefore, women should do their part by dressing in a way that draws attention to Christ, rather than themselves. Men should do their part of keeping their thoughts and eyes where they should be, also drawing attention to Christ.
But I digress. My main point here is that Whitefield says the Perfect Husband is beautiful, in part because of the way he looks at his Bride, reflecting that she is cherished, loved, and valued.
Selah, husbands. Selah.
3. We should be most attracted to Christ’s beauty. In Christ’s eyes, we are loved. His eyes sparkle toward us. His smiles indicate He is delighted in us, no matter what, and those smiles refresh our souls. Not because we deserve the admiration and acceptance, but because Christ is in us and we are in Christ. Though we are deeply flawed and sinful, He sees us as holy, spotless, blameless, and perfect. We are a reflection of Him, though we deserve nothing but His wrath and rejection. So given the immense grace that is offered to us, what do we do? Snarl in return? Reject intimacy? Disrespect? No. We respond with grateful, obedient hearts, and reciprocal admiration.
So it is with our earthly husbands. When they love us, we don’t snarl. We don’t reject. We don’t disrespect. We respond to the outheld hand. The compliment. The help. The advice. The sexual advance.
You’re likely asking: What if my husband doesn’t look at me the way Christ looks at the church? What if he’s not beautiful, and all he does is snarl and disrespect and reject first?
Either he is not loving you as he would his own body, as Christ loves the church.
You are not being a Biblical bride.
In all my experience with divorce (9 in just my immediate family), I have come to know one thing:
There’s always two sides to a story. And the truth is, if someone’s having marriage problems, both spouses have issues to one degree or another. My admonition is to figure them out. Get outside help if needed. Focus on and imitate Christ, regardless of emotions. Ask for forgiveness. And start over. Every day. Every minute if need be. Christ is the Husband, the Bride is the Church, and Christian marriages should reflect that relationship.
To wrap up:
Christian husbands need to know what it is to be a bride, because they are one. In doing so, they will become good husbands. Christian wives need to know what it is to be a bride also, married or unmarried, because they are one. What a comfort to single women, that they can have a Husband, even if they don’t have a husband. What an example (and comfort) to married women. For whatever our husbands cannot or do not provide for us (which will be every aspect of marriage at one point or another), God will provide. This frees us to love our husbands, even when they’re unlovable. We no longer have to get angry and defensive when our husband fails to meet our expectations, because our true Husband, our eternal Husband, is an endless supply of all we need.
I close by saying this:
Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25). To do that, learn what it is to be Christ’s bride. And wives, see that you respect and obey your husbands (Eph. 5:22-24). If he loves you even a smidgen in return, he’s making progress in knowing what it is to be a bride and working that knowledge out. If he doesn’t, keep your spirit quiet (not necessarily your mouth, as it is your duty to disciple your husband in addition to obeying and respecting him), and rest in the acceptance, intimacy, beauty, and love of Christ, the Best Husband.
It’s as easy — and as difficult — as that.
Happy Valentine’s Day, folks. And welcome to the counter-cultural Christian view that marriage isn’t all about me, me, me. It’s all about Christ, Christ, Christ, the Best Husband … and the sanctification of His people.