"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again—Rejoice!" Philip. 4:4
To the Christian, who is living near to the throne of grace, there are sources of joy unknown to all others. He can even "rejoice in tribulation," and "be glad in the Lord," although pain, and suffering, and distress fall to his lot. Not that he is insensible to trial and affliction, or that he steels himself to their endurance; not that he can gaze unmoved on the wreck of all his hopes, or behold, without a tear of agony, the beloved and cherished ones laid in their silent grave. No! no! his affections are more warm and tender—his sympathies more deep and strong—his sensibilities more acute and lively, than those of the worldling. He can feel, and feel intensely—the stroke of affliction, the severance of fond ties, the robbing of earthly joys. But then, he knows where he can go for comfort, peace, satisfaction, hope. He knows who has promised to give "the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," and he remembers the words of the Savior, "Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full."
The one great source of the Christian's joy is Christ. This, in a manner, swallows all the rest, or, rather, is the source of all the rest. The Christian rejoices because he has found Christ, "the Friend who sticks closer than a brother." The injunction of the apostle is, "Rejoice in the Lord," and again it is said, "We rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh;" and Peter, referring to the surpassing joy attained by many of these early Christians, says, "ln whom believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory." Similar is the language used in the Old Testament. David says, "Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness;" and Isaiah, speaking of the true Israel, declares, "You shall rejoice in the Lord, and glory in the Holy One of Israel." The prophet Joel says, "Be glad, then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God." Under the heavy pressure of affliction, Habakkuk declares, "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."
Christ is the only source of the believer's joy—God incarnate—God the Son, in our nature coming down to our low estate, to testify His love and compassion to us. Oh! there are no words which can inspire the heart with fuller joy than these, when uttered in sincerity—"He who was rich, for my sake, became poor." He who was rich—rich in the love of the everlasting Father—rich in the adoration of the heavenly hosts—rich in the glories of His own divinity—rich in the rolling worlds He had created by a word—yet, "became poor"—so poor, that He had not where to lay His head—so poor that when He asked for water they gave Him vinegar to drink—so poor, that His unpillowed head was girt with thorns in death—and all, "for my sake"—"wounded for my transgressions, bruised for my iniquities"—"bearing my sins in His own body on the tree;" sorrowing under them, enduring all their punishment, and blotting them out forever.
Believer! is not this the source—the proper source of your joy—that Jesus lived, and suffered, and died for you—that He paid "all that great debt" you owed to law and justice, and washed away the foul stain of your guilt, in His own most precious blood?
It is, also, a source of joy to the Christian, that the Crucified is now the glorified—that He rose triumphant from the grave, and ascended into glory—that he is seated at God's right hand, to wield the scepter of the universe, and to appear as the High Priest and Intercessor of His people. Oh! this thought has been a well-spring of joy to the believer. It has nerved his faith in many a hard fight—it has imparted sweetness to many a bitter draught. Jesus within the veil—the changeless Friend—the sympathizing Brother—the undying, ever-living Head—who has promised to His people, all-sufficient grace now, and certain, endless glory hereafter.
The Christian rejoices in the thought, that Christ not only "appears in the presence of God for us," but also that He is ever present with His Church and people on earth. "I am with you always, even unto the end of the ages." "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you." He is watching over, and gathering to Himself, a chosen people—chosen of God—the gift of the Father—the purchase of His blood; and He is supplying all their needs, bestowing all needful blessings, and preparing them for the enjoyment of His heavenly kingdom.
Children of God! do you not rejoice in such thoughts as these, and will you not bear witness, that, through all your trials and troubles, the faithfulness of your Savior's love has been the "very joy of your hearts?" You have had many crosses and losses—has He ever deserted you? You have been in severe afflictions, and have seen the flowers of many a 'sweet hope' wither and decay—did your Friend desert you then? Others may have proved faithless—all other help may have failed you—friendship's help, promised help, expected help—all, all may have been but as the foam upon the billow, as the footsteps in the sand—but, has Christ ever failed you? Could you, in the darkest and the saddest hour of your grief, say to Him? "Lord, You have promised what You did not perform." Will you not bear witness concerning the past?—"Not one good thing has failed, of all that the Lord has promised—all has come to pass."
Yes, and could we make our appeal to the ransomed multitude before the throne, and inquire—"You glorified spirits, did Christ forsake you? You have passed through the foaming billows of Jordan—did He leave you there? You have gone through the gloomy valley—was there no voice of love to cheer you then? You have appeared at the bar of heaven—did the Faithful One then desert you?"—with one voice would the answer be given, "No!—in all the troubles of our life—in all the bitterness of death—in all the agonies of our expiring moments—in all the dread solemnity of the judgment-seat—He has been with us—a Friend who sticks closer than a brother. The gloom of death's valley was radiant with his smile—its loneliness was cheered by His presence—its stillness was broken by His voice—its partings, its sinkings, and its throes were cheered, succored, and strengthened by His encircling arms—and with an unchanging and eternal love, He welcomed us to the Blissful Home of Light and Love."
And, if Christ is thus the source of satisfaction to His people, He has granted to them ten thousand other sources of joy—all of them connected with His Cross and with His love. None but a Christian can say, "I will go unto God—my exceeding joy—the Lord Jehovah is my strength and song." He alone can take up the language of the psalmist, "I will be glad, and rejoice in You;" but he can do so, because God is reconciled to him through Christ, and has become his God. A covenant has been sealed and ratified through the blood of the Cross; and the attributes of God, once so full of terror, are become his shield, his stronghold, and his triumph; and he can think of all the glorious perfections of the Almighty, and then say, "I will go unto God, my exceeding joy." His resistless power, His infinite wisdom, His unchanging fidelity to His word—all these are sources of triumph to every one who, having believed in Christ, has become a child of God.
So, also, he has joy, in the thought of the promised influence and aid of the Holy Spirit. Others may undervalue or make light of this precious doctrine—to him it imparts real and abiding joy. To know and realize, that this Holy One is ever near, as a comforter, sanctifier, and guide—that He will be a strength in weakness, a light in darkness, and a support in adversity—that He will continue to purify and enlighten and sanctify the soul, until it is prepared for glory—that having begun the good work He will not desist until He has completed it—oh! this is, to every true child of God, a source of unmingled joy—"the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit."
And then, all the blessings which flow from the Cross, fill the Christian's heart with joy. We might appeal to the experience of every true believer, that it is a joyful hour, when the load of guilt is removed from the conscience—when he is enabled by faith to receive the simple tidings of a full and free salvation—when Jesus is realized as a personal, an all-sufficient Savior. Yes, even although there is not firm assurance, if faith has imparted a glimmering of hope—if, touching the hem of the Savior's garment, we know that virtue has come out of Him and entered into us—oh! is there not a joy we would not barter for worlds?
When the jailer at Philippi, who was trembling in the prospect of destruction, received the blessed tidings and embraced the exhortation—"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved"—we are told "he rejoiced, believing in God with all his house." So is it, with every pardoned sinner, who, standing on the verge of ruin, has been arrested by sovereign grace—he is enabled to say with David, "I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God."
And, not only has the believer joy when he thinks of the danger he has escaped—the pardon he has received, but, when he reflects on the many great and precious things which are his by believing on Christ. He can now look up to God with filial confidence and say, "Abba, Father!" He can come with lowly boldness to the throne, and ask from God, any or all the blessings in the covenant of grace. No longer need he fear a frown or dread a refusal, (except of what would injure him,) "for, being justified by faith, he has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ—by whom also he has access by faith into that grace wherein he stands, and may rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
He can feel assured, that all his needs shall be supplied from the fountain that is inexhaustible—and that "no good thing" will be withheld from him. He can trace every mercy—every blessing, to the hand of God, and know that God has sent them—not in the lavish munificence of the universal monarch—but, in all the kindness and tenderness of a loving Father. Oh! it may well make every providential mercy doubly sweet, to trace it, first, to God as a Father, and then, to Christ who has obtained it for us; and to be assured, that as long as the Christian lives, he shall never—if he humbly asks—never lack the supplies of grace, by which he may continue faithful to the end of his earthly pilgrimage; and, strange, indeed, it were, if the believer could meditate on all these things, secured for him by the blood of Christ—on pardoning, sustaining, comforting, and sanctifying—yes, all-sufficient grace, and not rejoice in that blessed Savior, through whom they are all conveyed to his soul.
Further, this joy pervades, as it were, the whole of Christian life and experience. There is joy in faith—in hope—in love—in communion with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit—with the faithful in heaven and earth—with the holy ones who have laid aside their armor—and with those who are still upon the battle-plain. It is joy to the Christian, to reach another eminence in piety—to ascend another step in his heavenward journey—to feel that there is within him, more and more of that conformity to the Divine will, and resemblance to the Divine image, which the Spirit of God will continue graciously to impart, until he stands before the throne—sanctified, perfected, triumphant in his Lord!
Christian! are not all the engagements of your life as a believer, calculated to minister to your joy? Do you not feel, that every act of kindness brings its revenue of delight?—that every labor of love, engaged in for the Savior's sake, yields satisfaction and pleasure to the soul? And so with regard to the duties you have to discharge to God. Is it not a happiness, to unburden your cares and anxieties at a throne of grace?—to render your fervent tribute of thanksgiving and praise?—to interrupt the onward current of business and employment, by hallowing the Sabbath, and imploring a fresh accession of spiritual strength for the battle of life? Is it not an engagement full of holy joy, to ponder the Word of God?—to dwell on some heart-cheering promise?—to meditate on some glorious truth—overflowing with Divine compassion and the tenderest love?
Yes, it is joyful thus to obtain a nearer and clearer view of God, as our God in covenant—as pledged to be our surety and defense. It is true happiness thus to enter into communion with our Father in heaven—to be able to say, while bending over the sacred page, "Oh! how I love Your law! Your statutes, Lord, are right, rejoicing the heart—I delight in Your law after the inner man"—and, to anticipate that brighter and better time, when we shall see our Savior face to face—when communion shall be no more interrupted—when those sublime truths, which are now viewed, "through a glass darkly," will be as clear to us as the noon-day, and our souls will reflect the pure and unspotted image of our Savior God.
Nor, is it, only, in his own progress and experience, that the Christian rejoices. He has a pleasure and satisfaction—only short of what he derives from being saved himself—in seeing others rescued from the grasp of the destroyer, and brought into the family of God—in hearing the anthem of praise rising to the Redeemer from other ransomed souls—in tracing the progress of religion in those around him!—in observing, with what joy aged Christians are walking in the ways of God, and anticipating the glory that is to be revealed—in marking the young believer, "growing in grace and in the knowledge of Christ." These, and similar things, afford the greatest delight and satisfaction to every Christian mind, so that, in the words of the apostle, he may "rejoice evermore."
But it may be asked, where this joy has been imparted—has it no interruptions? It has, and very frequently. The best Christian has not always a joyous day. Our sins make sorrows needful—our lack of watchfulness may bring disquietude and doubt, and, instead of "rejoicing in the Lord," our hearts may be filled with despondency and gloom. Christian! if you have not this joy "abiding" in you now, you have cause for alarm; for, be assured, it is suspended, not from any lack of love on the part of your Savior, nor from any forgetfulness of you by the Holy Spirit, but, because you yourself have become less watchful, in guarding the citadel of the heart.
Christian joy can only be realized, when Christ reigns there, alone and uninterruptedly. If the world is permitted to occupy a larger share of the affections and the heart—if plain and known duty is neglected—if the means of grace are carelessly used—if in all your efforts, your duties, and your services—whether in the Church or in the world, you do not entreat the Divine blessing and the Divine aid—then the Spirit of God is grieved. He withdraws His cheering influence; and it is utterly impossible to have the peace and joy, which flow from the inward, abiding presence of the Savior—and which is the work—the entire work, of His Divine Spirit, the true and only comforter.
No power in the universe can rob you of it; none, but yourself, can even diminish it. "Your joy no man takes from you." What the power, or love, or presence of man can create—the power, or hatred, or absence of man can destroy. But, the joy of the believer has a different origin, and, as no man bestowed it, so no man can take it away. It has God for its author—the living Rock of Ages for its ever-flowing fountain—the Holy Spirit for the golden channel, which it conveys into the heart. Thus, coming from the fountain of joy, it is of immortal origin—and, is far above the reach of mortal enemies. All the sorrows of earth—all the temptations of hell, are vain against this joy. So far from being diminished by what would crush earthly happiness, and reduce the stoutest heart, without Divine grace, to hopeless dejection—it is only realized more fully, amid the raging fury of the hurricane, or the dreary gloom of a starless midnight. Then the anxious soul flees to God—then the promises are clasped to the heart—then the fidelity of the Savior's love is tested—then the sweet consolations of God rush in upon the soul, and there rises—louder than the loud winds—in the dark night of grief, and trial, and difficulty, the believer's song—"Yet will I rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation."
It burns within that bosom, where every earthly hope is extinguished. The night dews of affliction and disappointment may fall thickly upon it—the storms of sorrow may beat heavily against it—the winds of adversity may howl fearfully around it—but, like those fabled lamps of which we read, that, century after century, illumined the sepulchers of the east—burning with calm and steady light, amid the desolation of all earthly things—unchanged and unextinguishable; so does this joy—this living spark struck off from the great source of light and life—outlive all deaths, all changes, until it accompanies the freed spirit of the believer in whom it dwells, back to those abodes of joy from whence it came.
Christian! if you desire thus to "rejoice in the Lord," you must live near to the throne of grace—you must pray for a more lively faith in the efficacy and power of vital godliness, to cheer the heart in the darkest and dreariest hour. Remember! it is God's will, that you should be happy and cheerful every day—that you should find joy in everything around you—a pure, sinless, increasing joy—and, that you should pass through all life's vicissitudes, rejoicing in the love of Christ, and in the hope of glory. Strive, then, to live up to your privileges—to rise to all the joy that is set before you—and, to shed on all around, the bright and cheering rays of true religion.
Tell the men of the world, and, let them see by your example and spirit, that Christianity is not the gloomy thing they imagine—that a life of holiness is a life of real happiness—of happiness for time and for eternity. But, oh! tell them, there is something gloomy—the joy, which blazes for a moment like a dazzling meteor, and then vanishes forever—the hopes, which are dependent on worldly possessions and worldly pleasures—and, which made Solomon, who had experienced them all, cry out in the anguish of disappointment—"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity"—the delights of sin, which bring the flush to the cheek, and kindle rapture in the eye—but, at the last, bite like a serpent and sting like an adder. Tell them, it is a gloomy thing to be drawing near to the grave with no true hope of heaven—to know that there are mansions of glory, but to have no title to their possession—to stand before a throne of judgment—while mercy withdraws, and judgment proclaims—"it is too late!" Oh, tell them—and you will remove the guilt of their blood from off you—that it is a miserable choice, to prefer the world's pleasures, to the happiness which Christ bestows—and the glory yet to be revealed.
And be it yours, to retain the possession of your joy, by abiding in your Savior's love—by living daily upon His fullness—resting beneath His shadow—lovingly obeying all His commands—submissively receiving all His chastenings—joyfully welcoming all His rebukes—unhesitatingly following all His leadings—glorifying Him in mercy and in trial, in health and in sickness, in prosperity and adversity; until that blessed hour when He will take you home, and you will "drink of the river of His pleasure," and partake of "the joys which are at God's right hand" forevermore.
Heavenly Father, we draw near unto You in the name of Jesus, and we humbly beseech You to hearken to our supplications. Oh, give us filial confidence in approaching the mercy-seat, rejoicing in the mightiest of all Beings as our Father and Friend.
Grant that we may have peace and joy in believing, that we may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Enlighten our minds in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, that we may rejoice in the Lord always. Strengthen our faith; enliven our hope; inflame our love; increase our consolation; inspire us with all holy gladness and assurance of spirit, and seal us unto the day of our final redemption.
May we delight in You as our chief joy, and be enabled truly to love You, heartily to trust in You, and wholly to give up ourselves to Your service. Blessed be Your name, for the assurance, that in all our duties, you will be our Help; in all our difficulties, our Counselor; in all our trials and dangers, our Protector; in all our sorrows, our Peace and Consolation. Whatever in Your providence You send, make us to be heartily content with Your blessed will. Do not allow us to forget You in prosperity—or to think ourselves forgotten by You in adversity. Teach us to acknowledge and adore You in all Your gifts; and when earthly comforts fail, and streams of earthly happiness are dried up, may we still rest confidingly on the arm of our covenant God, and say, Yet will we rejoice in the Lord, and joy evermore in the God of our salvation.
Oh! allow us not to grieve Your Holy Spirit, but may He abide with us continually, gladdening our hearts, and filling us with His blessed and holy fruits, which are in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth. May we be strengthened, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and joyfulness.
Continue, O God, amid all the vicissitudes of life, to impart to us that inner sunshine which no outward darkness or trial can obscure. May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds, and, when death comes, may we fall asleep in the glorious hope of a joyful resurrection. Amen.