Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.…
Evangelical religion is often charged with making men gloomy, averse to sharing the innocent pleasures of life, and thus has been made repulsive to the young especially. The charge finds some support in the demeanour of many Christians in whom, from defective views of duty, the gospel is not permitted to exert its sweetening power. By such religion is grievously misrepresented. Jesus was "the man of sorrows" because He bore the world's guilt; but when the bitter work was over He was "anointed with the oil of gladness." Christians ought to share this. Being "in the Lord" they should be full of gladness.
I. TO THE UNREGENERATE MAN CHRISTIAN JOY IS UNINTELLIGIBLE. It belongs to a sphere with which he has no acquaintance. He sees the restraints which religion imposes, but of its blessed communion with God he sees nothing. Its hopes to him are visionary. He cannot think the yoke of Jesus to be easy.
II. TO THE TRUE CHRISTIAN THIS JOY IS REASONABLE, and even when he is not happy he feels he ought to be.
1. It springs from love to Christ. Out in the world we find Marahs; its springs are full of bitterness. In Christ. "with joy we draw water from the wells of salvation."
2. The citizens of the spiritual Zion may well be joyful in their King. What city is like ours? Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth. God hath called her walls Salvation and her gates Praise. Prosperity is within her palaces. Through her midst flows the river of life, and there is the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. The King abides amongst us. To all our petitions His ear is open; to all our wants His bounteous hand. His service is glorious liberty.
3. We have perfect security. No power can pluck us out of our Saviour's hand; for with His infinite goodness is conjoined an infinite grossness.
4. In the contemplation of providence there is an unfailing source of joy. The natural satisfaction which outward comforts bring is pervaded and glorified by the thankfulness of hearts rejoicing in their Father's goodness. Anxiety, pain, and bereavement may be appointed to us, but that they are a Father's appointment will prevent despondency and maintain peace.
5. Innocent enjoyments have a new charm "in the Lord." He who began His miracles by contributing to social pleasure, changes the common into the noble and refreshing. Friendship has one added sweetness, nature a new and glorious beauty, and study a satisfaction altogether peculiar, now that intellectual improvement is felt to be polishing a shaft for the Master's quiver.
6. Next to the ineffable delight of seeing Jesus as His Saviour is the delight which fills the believer's heart in helping others to see Him as theirs.
III. THE REASONS WHY MANY CHRISTIANS HAVE LITTLE OF THIS JOY are various. In some it is due —
1. To temperament. Of this class the Apostle Thomas may be taken as a type. In many, the nervous tendency to religious melancholy developes insanity, as in the case of Cowper. The care of a physician and the watchful love of friends may be of service to joyless Christians.
2. To defective apprehension of the fulness and freeness of the gospel. The glorious liberty has been so little understood that while living in the air of freedom many have fallen back into "the spirit of bondage again to fear."
3. To feeble spirituality and indulgence in sin. Worldliness, like a killing parasite, has wreathed itself round the energies of the soul. The pleasures of life have stolen away the time from duty. Mists rise from a mind cherishing sinful desire and hide the face of God. We know why David had to pray, "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation." And all that is well, and it is to be hoped that this gloom is the harbinger of repentance, and the opening of his heart to the Sun of Righteousness.
(R. Johnstone, LL. B.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.