Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.…
The text shows that religion is no killjoy: and yet it is frequently regarded as involving a renunciation of the pleasures of life. To ascertain the relation of piety to amusements is of great importance. Every man has leisure and inclination for amusement. How far may it be indulged? A man is made or marred by the way in which he spends his leisure. A certain amount of amusement is beneficial, but multitudes are ruined by amusement.
I. THE EXTENT TO WHICH MERE AMUSEMENT IS NEEDFUL AND BENEFICIAL.
1. The "alway" of the text covers the whole sphere of life but mere amusement can only be an occasional thing, and therefore not the only form of happiness. That must be found also in those experiences, duties, toils, anxieties, and sorrows which constitute the main stream of our daily life.
2. The key to this is "in the Lord." If God makes us glad we may be always glad. A richer joy may be found in discharging life's duties and bearing its burdens so as to secure God's approval than in any amount of amusement.
3. Seeing that it would be a great mistake to seek happiness in amusements which would imperil the proper conduct of life's more serious business. He who neglects duty for amusement makes a great mistake.
II. WHAT TEACHING THERE IS IN THE TEXT RESPECTING THE LAWFULNESS OF AMUSEMENTS AND THE MAIN PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE US.
1. Rejoicing is a Christian duty. Hence we ought to cultivate it as much as justice, etc.
2. Can cheerfulness be cultivated without paying special attention to the matter? Certainly not: hence the gospel sanctions a certain amount of amusement. Happiness is the outcome of the healthy play of our faculties. Now in the daily stress some of them are sure to be overstrained. Our constitution is like a harp of many strings. To keep it in tune, therefore, we must naturally give the overstrained strings periodic rest, but touch up the others and play upon them: this is amusement, and the text implies its necessity.
3. But what kind of amusement does the gospel sanction?
(1) Our pleasures must be pure and unselfish, to be indulged in in the spirit of holiness and kindly consideration for others. We are to rejoice in the Lord always; and holiness and unselfishness were the most conspicuous features of Christ's character.
4. God has placed within the reach of all an infinite amount of ennobling entertainment. In the world around us there is an inexhaustible wealth of beauty, grandeur, and skill whose observation and imitation supply us with abundant entertainment.
(1) We are born into a theatre where a drama of the most thrilling interest, now comedy, now tragedy, now both, is constantly going forward, and we are taking our own little part in it.
(2) We are born into a museum such as monarch never erected.
(3) We are born into a palace whose roof is the firmament, whose walls the horizon, and whose floor the earth and sea.
(4) Besides this music, art, poetry, and literature are at command.
(5) And, yet more, God has so made us that the lawful satisfaction of our appetites and exercise of our bodies may be a constant source of pleasure.
5. How is it, then, that we make such a mess of our amusements. We want —
(1) Christ's training to make us Christlike in our tastes and habits — eyes trained to appreciate beauty in form and colour; ears trained to appreciate music, and a decided taste formed for literature and science. The lower appetites are always ripe for entertainment — the higher want cultivating, and the lower will then give way.
(2) Unselfishness and charity in our pleasures. The man who can amuse himself at the expense of wife and children or any of his fellows, cannot rejoice in the Lord, and such amusements will always be unhallowed and unblessed.
Parallel VersesKJV: Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.