“He Only Fair, and What He Fair Hath Made”

A Christian woman should want to be beautiful, but she is made so by quietly submitting to God’s Word within her station in life.

Men call you fair, and you do credit it,
For that your self ye daily such do see:
But the true fair, that is the gentle wit,
And vertuous mind, is much more prais’d of me.
For all the rest, how ever fair it be,
Shall turn to naught and lose that glorious hue:
But only that is permanent and free
From frail corruption, that doth flesh ensue.
That is true beauty: that doth argue you
To be divine, and born of heavenly seed:
Deriv’d from that fair Spirit, from whom all true
And perfect beauty did at first proceed.
He only fair, and what he fair hath made,
All other fair, like flowers untimely fade.
Amoretti LXXIX by Edmund Spenser, 1552-1599

Should a Christian woman want to be beautiful? She certainly knows she shouldn’t conform to the world’s idea of beauty, which is to cover up her face too much and her body not enough, to attract sinful attention. But even apart from the world’s perversion, a Christian can see that outward beauty causes problems. Twice in his sojournings, Abraham feared that he would be killed on account of his beautiful wife Sarah. Isaac had the same fear concerning Rebekah. In The Iliad, Achilles went on strike when fair Briseis was taken from him—and the Trojan War itself was caused by the infamous beauty of Helen. In Arthurian legends, Arthur’s whole realm was brought to ruin when his lovely queen Guinevere and handsome Lancelot could not resist each other. From examples like these, we might conclude that beauty is nothing but a snare.

But God created beauty. It is, in itself, a good thing. God made a beautiful world, and He, Who is beauty itself, made man in His own image. Just as it would be silly to wish that Casper Mountain were a barren, sandy rock, it would be silly to wish that human beings were misshapen, wasted, and ugly.

The problem is that, as usual, the world takes something good and corrupts it toward its own ends. Money is a gift of God, but man becomes a miser. Food and drink are gifts of God, but man becomes a glutton. And beauty is a gift of God, but man degrades it to suit his own vanity and pleasure.

So how can a Christian woman be beautiful in a godly way? She learns it from God’s Word. “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your 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. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (I Peter 3:3-6). Sarah was outwardly beautiful, and this is not despised. But she was made beautiful by her submission to Abraham.

So, yes, a Christian woman should want to be beautiful, but she is made so by quietly submitting to God’s Word within her station in life. A woman can do nothing uglier than try to usurp the authority God has placed over her, be it her husband, father, or pastor. And she can do nothing more beautiful than submit in faith to God’s will and order. This even imitates the beauty of Christ, who willingly submitted to His Father.

And inner beauty actually produces outward beauty, too. Whether the world deems her pretty or ugly, a faithful woman has a happy countenance, a self-disciplined body, a cheerful spirit, and a life of good works that overflow in love to the neighbor. All this comes only from God.

In Christ,
Miss Hahn

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