The Mission of Beauty
Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made every thing beautiful in his time: also he has set the world in their heart…

Beauty is a term of varied and extensive import. Whatever excites the emotion, be it a statue fresh from the chisel of the sculptor, a flower by the wayside, chronicling some old buried memory, or a glorious sunset among the hills, a speech, a poem, a virtue, a deed or a song, that is beautiful.

I. BEAUTY AND ITS MISSION AS SEEN IN NATURE. There is affluence of beauty in the broad, blue heavens and on the green earth; in the stars that look so gently and kindly upon us; in the orchards, groves and forest trees; in the plumage and song of birds; in the modest flower that blooms in the hedge; in the sturdy oak which has wrestled with the storms and the winds of a thousand years; in the tall and stately cedar of Lebanon, in the pendent branches of the willow, sighing like a mourner by the silent stream. There is beauty in the morning dew, shining like diamond points all over field and meadow; in drops of water as they hang like costly pearls on trees and telegraph wires after a refreshing shower. There is beauty in the little rill which bursts away from some sequestered nook in the hillside, like a truant child, and runs — now glancing out in the light and then hiding itself in entangled shrubbery till it seems to find its playfellows in the babbling brook. There is beauty in the majestic river as it rolls, strengthened by innumerable tributaries, proudly into the broad sea. There is beauty in the alternations of day and night, in the still evening, when the shadows deepen over the plain and the veil of mist rises slowly over the valley, and the sombre woods which skirt the distant horizon grow more indistinct, and the sun sinks to rest, leaving the clouds above all aglow with his setting radiance. There is beauty in the seasons; in the spring arrayed in verdure; in the summer teeming with luxuriance; in autumn loaded with golden harvests. And winter, too, has its charms, covering the earth with its robe of purity and adorning the forests with gems of dazzling and enchanting brilliancy. It is no wonder that Solomon, in his wisdom, should have said, "God hath made everything beautiful in His time," because everything is adapted to some end or use. Nothing is made in vain. Whatever is beautiful in nature has its use, to secure harmony in the great orchestra of all created things, or reflect the superlative glory of the uncreated God.

II. ARTIFICIAL BEAUTY, or those forms of beauty which may be regarded as copies of nature — the creations of genius and art. These, too, may exalt our conceptions of the Divine Being, as all the beautiful forms from the chisel of the sculptor, from the pencil of the artist, exist as types or models in the great gallery of Nature, of which God is the Author. Art is the shadow of Nature, the photograph of external beauty, the pictured diagrams of a higher and more exalted finish. Art may be the handmaid of religion, an auxiliary to worship. The old Hebrew temple, in its form and finish, in its utensils of gold, in its altars of ivory, in its outer and inner courts, was the very perfection of art, and all was designed as an aid to worship and an emblem of heaven. The magnificent cathedrals of the Old World and the costly pictures with which they are adorned have a higher purpose than simply to attract the vulgar eye or awaken a temporary admiration. They are designed as helps, acting through the senses to lead the worshippers on to a proper conception of that uncreated beauty that dwelleth not in temples built with hands.

III. INTELLECTUAL BEAUTY. We speak of the canvas or the sculptured marble as uttering "thoughts that breathe and words that burn": but when we thus figuratively speak, we speak in praise of the creative mind of the artist and the sculptor. These are only the outward and visible expression of the ideal beauty that was in his own thought. Knowledge, genius, wisdom, taste, whenever, wherever perceived are beautiful. Mind is the measure not only, but the chief attraction either of woman or man. A well-stored, a highly-educated mind is to me the most attractive thing in the universe; and to see such a mind at work solving the problems of science, analyzing the most difficult subjects, charming by its eloquence or song, raising the heavy burdens from the groaning heart of humanity, cannot fail to awaken the highest emotions of admiration and of beauty. God, whose intellect is infinite, and always devising for the good of His creatures, must ever be regarded, when properly perceived, as the most beautiful Being in the universe, shedding His light and beauty over all the works of His hands; and we can offer no more appropriate prayer and join with the psalmist and say, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us."

IV. MORAL BEAUTY AND ITS MISSION. Right is always beautiful; truth, honour, integrity are beautiful; magnanimity, justice and benevolence are as really beautiful as the most lovely of material forms. If we contemplate the act of the Good Samaritan dismounting from his beast at the risk of his own life and affording the needed aid to a wounded Jew, we feel in our inmost soul that compassion is beautiful. There is beauty in purity. If the lily bending on its stem is beautiful to the eye, so is purity, of which the lily is a favourite and impressive emblem. In an age of general licentiousness, to see a youthful captive break away from the solicitations of his royal mistress is a spectacle that commands admiration of every mind not absolutely brutalized by lust. Illustrations of moral beauty are not wanting in our age and time. The family united in a loving fellowship, where heart responds in cordial sympathy to heart, is certainly one of the most beautiful sights on earth, and the most impressive type of heaven. Thus the Church, as the Bride of Christ, all-glorious within and without, humble yet active, conservative yet aggressive, clad in the seamless robe of a Redeemer's righteousness, adorned with all the graces of the Spirit, and charity crowning the whole, is the very climax of beauty, more gorgeous to behold than all the glory and riches of Solomon. Remember the words of our text, "Everything is beautiful in His time" — beautiful, because useful and answering fully the end of its being; and nothing can be more beautiful than woman intellectually and morally educated and working in her sphere for the benefit of her race. This is the highest type and style of beauty, outliving the physical, surpassing that of art, over which death and the grave have no power. Arrayed in this imperishable robe, the spirit only grows younger as the body decays; and when released from the tenement of clay shall ascend to mingle with forms celestial on a mission still, through endless years of beauty and of love.

(S. D. Burchard, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

WEB: He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in their hearts, yet so that man can't find out the work that God has done from the beginning even to the end.

The Hope of Immortality
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