64. ON JOY
Christian joy is not a tumultuous passion, or feverish affection; but a calm
and composed frame; a holy serenity of soul; a gladsome rest in the
faithfulness and grace of Jesus. It sheds a luster over the countenance;
beams forth at the eye, and often causes it to be suffused in tears. It
creates an indescribable delight in the heart.
Paul was in this heavenly frame, when he said, "I am filled with comfort; I
am exceeding joyful in all my tribulation." This holy joy does not depend on
outward circumstances, for the apostle could say, "As sorrowful, yet always
rejoicing." No one possesses this inward joy, but the real believer. "A
stranger intermedles not with it." It is the fruit of the Spirit, and flows
from a living faith in the divinity and atonement of Jesus.
So inseparable from Christian joy are right views of the blessed Savior,
that John commences his first Epistle, as he did his Gospel, by refuting
those two heresies, which, like poisonous weeds, were then springing up. The
one propagated by the Gnostics or Docetae, who denied the real humanity of
Jesus; the other by the Ebionites, who denied the essential divinity of the
Redeemer. How conclusive are the declarations of John; "That which was from
the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which
we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the word of life." What
language can more fully describe the real humanity of the Son of God?
"For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and
show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was
manifested unto us." What a striking attestation to the divinity of Christ!
"That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that you also may
have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and
with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy
may be full."
Thus the apostle clearly and unequivocally states, that Christian communion
can only be maintained in its blessedness, and Christian joy possessed in
its fullness, by a cordial reception of Jesus Christ, as "God manifest in
It were well, if all who profess to believe in Jesus would examine the
ground of their faith, and the source of their joy, by this highly important
passage in the word of God. Holy joy is a portion of heaven brought down
into the soul, and enables the believer to soar above the troubles which
assail him. Like the Alpine traveler, he looks down upon the storm which
agitates the valley beneath. Even when compelled to exclaim, "without are
fightings, and within are fears," he can "rejoice evermore."
Habakkuk was truly happy, when, raised above all the changing scenes of
life, he thus sang to the harp of prophecy; "Even though the fig trees have
no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop
fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in
the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign Lord is my
strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on
the heights." Habakkuk 3:17-19
The apostles sang in the prison. The martyrs praised God in the fires. They
rejoiced in hope of the glory of God, and were made more than conquerors
through him who loved them, and gave himself for them. This holy joy, this
peaceful state of heart, is, nevertheless, susceptible to be disturbed and
Through the remaining corruption of his nature, the believer is often sorely
harassed and distressed. The enemy plies him very closely with his
temptations. Thus he finds hourly need for watchfulness and prayer, as well
as for deep humiliation and self-abhorrence. If ensnared, through the
subtlety of Satan, or by sudden surprisals of temptations, the enemy exults,
and his heart is grieved. Yet, what must he do? Through grace, be betakes
himself to the blood of sprinkling. He goes mourning to his heavenly Father,
acknowledging his sin; pleads the merit of his Savior; implores the
continued aid and protection of the Holy Spirit; lies low in self-abasement
at the foot of the cross, and there receives this gracious word applied
powerfully to his soul "go in peace, your sins are forgiven." Light beams
once more in his heart; joy once more fills his soul. He hates himself and
loves his Savior; watches more narrowly over the inward motions of his
spirit; distrusts himself; and relies more confidently on the grace of his
Thus the enemy of souls is baffled; his growth in humility is promoted; and
God, through his restoring grace, is glorified.
"Affliction," says the apostle, "is not joyous, but grievous." Hence outward
troubles may dampen the believer's joy, while he looks off from the Savior
to the boisterous wind and waves which rage around him. Peter did so, and
began to sink. Faith, however, clings fast to the Savior and exults in the
Paul was compelled at times to say, "I have great heaviness and continual
sorrow in my heart." But where arose this grief? It sprang from the deep
concern which he felt for his perishing brethren according to the flesh.
Thus many favored souls who are happy in the love of God, and who rejoice in
Jesus with a joy unspeakable and full of glory, can sympathize with David,
and say, "Rivers of water run down my eyes, because men keep not your law."
Their personal joy may be in lively exercise, while their hearts are greatly
grieved for a world which lies in wickedness. Is not this the characteristic
feeling of the children of God?
Christian charity is a compound of active benevolence and tender compassion,
flowing from a supreme love to Jesus Christ. The true believer is,
therefore, the genuine philanthropist. He not only feels for the miseries of
others, but labors to remove them by prayer and suitable exertion. His heart
can melt at another's woe, and gladden at another's welfare. Hence he
rejoices over one sinner that repents. He feels his own joy increased by
each increase to the church of God. He rejoices not in iniquity, but
rejoices in the truth. As sin pains him, both when felt in himself and seen
in others, so holiness delights him, when, like Barnabas, he beholds its
growing influence in those around him. The joy of the Lord is his strength.
When faith is in lively exercise, and joy is springing up in his soul, he
can brave every danger, and boldly encounter every enemy which may oppose
his way to glory.
Such is the happy experience of the believer in Jesus. It is his privilege
to rejoice. A God of sovereign love wills the happiness of his people. As
nothing but sin can separate the soul from God, or cause him to hide his
face from us; so nothing but sin ought really to dampen our joy. Woe be to
him who can feel joyous in his sins!
The Gospel is good news, glad tidings of great joy. Those worldly people
greatly mistake its nature, tendency, and design, who suppose it to be a
mere system of restraints; an enemy to innocent enjoyment. It ways are ways
of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace. The Gospel bids us to be
happy. All that it condemns is an abuse of divine mercies, and that
alienation of heart which leads us to seek from the broken cisterns of the
world that happiness, which can only be derived from the eternal fountain of
The Gospel, while it faithfully reveals to us our ruined state as sinners,
and our utter unworthiness of the least of God's mercies, graciously opens
to our view the way to unspeakable felicity, through the incarnation and
death of the eternal Son of God. Those who reject the Gospel, and choose the
forbidden pleasures of sin, find the fruit of their choice to be bitterness
and death; while those who cheerfully renounce the world, and yield
themselves unto God through Jesus Christ, have a spring of holy joy opened
in their souls, which shall flow onward, until it issue in everlasting life.
Oh! my soul, is this your experience? Do you feel this inward joy in a
crucified Jesus? Are you leaning on the bosom of your Savior; resting on
covenant faithfulness and unchanging love?
Enable me, blessed Lord, with joy to draw water out of the wells of
salvation; to come daily unto you, the fountain of consolation; who has
said, "drink, drink abundantly, Oh beloved." When I feel my inward
depravity, Oh give me grace to see, with the eye of faith, the glorious
remedy which you have provided. May I lay hold on Jesus Christ, and never
let him go, until he bless me. Shine into my heart with the bright beam of
your heavenly grace. Shed abroad your love in my soul. Give me the witness
of the Holy Spirit. Grant that I may taste your goodness here, in the sweet
refreshing streams of Gospel joy, until, borne with gladsome wing to the
fountain-head in glory, my soul shall be lost in wonder, love, and praise.
How sweet the sacred joy that dwells
In souls renewed by power divine;
Where Jesus all his goodness tells;
Oh! may this joy be ever mine!
Descend and bless your servant, Lord,
Your loving Spirit now impart;
Speak the all-enlivening word,
And seal salvation to my heart.
From earth, and all its fleeting toys,
Be all my fond desires withdrawn;
Oh fill my soul with heavenly joys,
Of endless bliss the glorious dawn.
Then shall my raptured spirit sing,
In strains of pure celestial love;
When, borne on some kind seraph's wing,
I soar to brighter worlds above.