Sermon 1582. The Fruit of the Spirit-Joy
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, FEBRUARY 6, 1881,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is joy." Galatians 5:22.
OBSERVE, "the fruit of the Spirit," for the product of the Spirit of God is one. As some fruits are easily divisible intoseveral parts, so you perceive that the fruit of the Spirit, though it is but one, is threefold, no, it makes three timesthree-"love, joy, peace; longsuffering, gentleness, goodness; faith, meekness, temperance"-all one! Perhaps "love" is putfirst not only because it is a right royal virtue, nearest akin to the Divine perfection, but because it is a comprehensiveGrace and contains all the others. All the commandments are fulfilled in one word and that word is "love." And all the fruitsof the Spirit are contained in that one most sweet, most blessed, most heavenly, most God-like Grace of love. See that youabound in love to the great Father and all His family, for if you fail in the first point, how can you succeed in the second?Above all things, put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.
As for joy, if it is not the first product of the Spirit of God, it is next to the first, and we may be sure that the orderin which it is placed by the Inspired Apostle is meant to be instructive. The fruit of the Spirit is love, first, as comprehensiveof the rest-then joy rising out of it. It is remarkable that joy should take so eminent a place! It attains unto the firstthree and is but one place lower than the first. Look at it in its high position and if you have missed it, or if you havedepreciated it, revise your judgment and endeavor with all your heart to attain to it, for depend upon it-this fruit of theSpirit is of the utmost value!
This morning, as I can only speak upon one theme, I leave love for another occasion and treat only of joy. May its DivineAuthor, the Holy Spirit, teach us how to speak of it to our profit and His Glory! It is quite true that the Spirit of Godproduces sorrow, for one of His first effects upon the soul is holy grief. He enlightens us as to our lost condition, convictingus of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. And the first result upon our heart is astonishment and lamentation. Even whenwe look to Christ, by the work of the Spirit one of the first fruits is sorrow-"They shall look on Him whom they have piercedand they shall mourn for Him, and be in bitterness for Him as one that is in bitterness for his first-born."
But this sorrow is not the ultimate objective of the Spirit's work-it is a means to an end. Even as the travail of the motherleads up to the joy of birth, so do the pangs of repentance lead up to the joy of pardon and acceptance. The sorrow is, touse a Scriptural figure, the blade, but the full corn in the ear is joy. Sorrow helps the fruit on, but the fruit, itself,is joy. The tears of godly grief for sin are all meant to sparkle into the diamonds of joy in pardoning love. This teachesus, then, that we are not to look upon bondage as being the objective of the work of the Spirit of God, or the design of theLord in a work of Grace. Many are under bondage to the Law-they attempt to keep the commands of God-not out of love, but fromslavish fear. They dread the lash of punishment and tremble like slaves. But to Believers it is said, "You are not under theLaw, but under Grace" and, "You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit ofadoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."
To be in bondage under the Law, to be afraid of being cast away by God and visited with destruction on account of sin afterwe have trusted in Jesus-this is not the work of the Spirit of God in Believers, but the black offspring of unbelief or ignoranceof the Grace of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Neither is a painful dread or a servile terror a fruit of the Spirit.Many worship the Lord Jesus, Himself, at a distance-they know not that Believers are "a people near unto Him." They are afraidof God and they never delight in Him. They attend to worship, not because they rejoice in it, but because they think it mustbe done. Their secret feeling is-"What a weariness it is," but necessity compels. They know nothing of a child's joy in sureand full forgiveness, spoken by the Father's own lips as He pressed them to His bosom.
His kiss was never warm upon their cheek. The ring was never on their finger, nor the best robe upon their shoulders. Themusic and the dancing of the joyous family who are in harmony with the father's joy over the lost son have never charmed theirears. They are still under dread, which is the fruit of superstition rather than "the fruit of the Spirit." Many things theydo and suffer and all in vain-if the Son did but make them free, they would be free, indeed! I know some whom I am very farfrom despising, but whom, on the contrary, I greatly value, whose religion, sincere as I know it is, is sadly tinged withgloomy colors. They are afraid of Assurance, for they dread presumption! They dare not speak of their own salvation with thecertainty with which the Bible saints were known to speak of it-they always say, "I hope," and, "I trust."
They would seem to be total abstainers from joy! They are suspicious of it lest it should be carnal excitement or visionaryhope. They hang their heads like bulrushes and go mourning all their days as if the religion of Christ knew no higher festivalthan a funeral and all its robes were the garments of despair! Brothers and Sisters, despondency is not the fruit of the Spirit!Make no mistake, depression is frequently the fruit of indigestion, or of satanic temptation, or of unbelief, or of some harboredsin, but, "the fruit of the Spirit is joy." Constantly looking within your own self instead of looking alone to Christ isenough to breed misery in any heart.
I have also known gloomy expressions to be the fruit of affectation, the fruit of the unwise imitation of some undoubtedlygood person who was of a downcast spirit. Some of the best of men have had a melancholy turn, but they would have been bettermen if this had been overcome. Imitate their many virtues-but take the pot of ointment and pick out the dead flies. O my Brethren,look well to it that you bring forth the genuine, holy, sacred, delicious fruit of the Spirit which, in one of its forms,is "joy." Do not covet the counterfeit of earthly joy, but seek to the good Spirit to bear the true fruit in you.
I. In speaking upon this joy I shall notice, first, the fact that IT IS BROUGHT FORTH. Brothers and Sisters, the Spirit ofGod is not barren! If He is in you, He must and will inevitably produce His own legitimate fruit-and "the fruit of the Spiritis joy." We know this to be a fact because we, ourselves, are witnesses of it. Joy is our portion and we are cheered and comfortedin the Savior. "What?" you ask, "are we not depressed and sorrowful at times?" Yea, verily, and yet what Christian man orwoman among us would make an exchange with the happiest of all worldlings? Your lot is somewhat hard, my Brother, and sometimesyour spirit sinks within you. But do you not count yourself to be, even at your worst, happier than the worldling at his best?Come, would you not take your poverty, even with your mourning, rather than accept his wealth with all his hilarity and giveup your hope in God?
I am persuaded you would-you would not change your blest estate for a monarch's crown! Well, then, that which you would notchange is a good thing and full of joy to your heart. Brothers and Sisters, we experience extraordinary joys at times. Someare of an equable temperament and they are almost to be envied, for a stream of gentle joy always glides through their spirit.Others of us are of a more excitable character and, consequently, we fall very flat at times. Yes, but then we have our highdays and holidays and mounting times-and then we outsoar the wings of eagles! Heaven itself can hardly know more ecstaticjoy than we have occasionally felt! We shall be vessels of greater capacity in Heaven, but even here we are, at times, fullto the brim with joy-I mean the same joy which makes Heaven so glad.
At times God is pleased to inundate the spirit with a flood of joy and we are witnesses that, "happy is the people whose Godis the Lord." We do not dance before the Ark every day, but when we do, our joy is such as no worldling can understand-itis far above and out of his sight. Besides our own witness, the whole history of the Church goes to show that God's peopleare a joyful people. I am sure that if in reading the history of the first Christian centuries you are asked to point outthe men to be envied for their joy, you would point to the Believers in Jesus. There is a room in Rome which is filled withthe busts of the emperors. I have looked at their heads-they look like a collection of prizefighters and mur-derers-and Icould scarcely discover on any countenance a trace of joy.
Brutal passions and cruel thoughts deprived the lords of Rome of all chance ofjoy. There were honorable exceptions to theirrule, but taking them all round you would look in vain for moral excellence among the Caesars. And lacking this thing of beauty,they missed that which is a joy. Turn, now, to the poor, hunted Christians and read the inscriptions left by them in the catacombs!They are so calm and peaceful that you say instinctively-a joyous people were known to gather here! Those who have been mosteminent in service and in suffering for Christ's sake have been of a triumphant spirit, dauntless because supported by aninner joy! Their calm courage made them the wonder of the age. The true Chris-
tian is a different type of manhood from the self-indulgent tyrant. There is almost as much advance from the coarseness ofvice to holiness as there is from the chimpanzee to the man!
I do not know how much Tiberius and Caligula and Nero used to sing. Happy men they certainly were not. I can hardly imaginethem singing except at their drunken orgies and then in the same tone as tigers growl! But I do know that Paul and Silas sangpraises unto God with their feet in the stocks and the prisoners heard them! And I know, also, that this was the mark of theChristians of the first age, that, when they assembled on the Lord's Day, it was not to groan but to sing praises to the nameof one Christos, whom they worshipped as God. High joys were common, then, when the Bridegroom comforted His bride in thedens and caves of the earth. Those pioneers of our holy faith were destitute, afflicted, tormented-yet were they men of whomthe world was not worthy-and men who counted it all joy to suffer persecution for Christ's sake.
Now, if in the very worst times God's people have been a happy people, I am sure they are so now. I would appeal to the biographiesof men of our own day and challenge any question as to the statement that their lives have been among the most desirable ofhuman existences for they possessed a joy which cheered their sorrows, blessed their labors, sweetened their trials and sustainedthem in the hour of death. With some Christians, this fruit of the Spirit is perpetual, or almost so. I do not doubt thatmany walk with God as Enoch did throughout the whole day of their life, always peaceful and joyful in the Lord. I have metwith some dear Brothers and Sisters of that kind, whose breath has been praise, whose life has been song! How I envy themand chide my own heart that I cannot always abide in their choice condition! It is to be accomplished and we will press forwardtill we are "always rejoicing."
But with others, joy is not constant and yet it is frequent. David had his mourning times when tears were his meat, day andnight, and yet God was his exceeding joy. How thankful we ought to be for the portrait of David's inner self which is presentedto us in the Book of Psalms. With all his grief, what joys he had! David was, on the whole, a joyous man. His Book of Psalmshas in it lyrics of delight-the most glad hymns that ever leaped from human tongues! David is, I believe, the type of a greatmajority of the people of God who, if not, "always rejoicing," are yet often so. Please remember that the utmost fullnessof joy can hardly be enjoyed always in this mortal life. I believe that the human frame is not, in this world, capable ofperpetual ecstasy.
Look at the sun, but look not too long lest you are blinded by excessive light. Taste of honey, but eat not much of it orit will no longer please the palate. Let your ears be charmed with the Hallelujah chorus, but do not dream that you couldendure its harmonies all the hours of the day-before long you would cry out for eloquent pauses and sweet reliefs of silence!Too much, even, of delight will weary our feeble hearts and we shall need to come down from the mountain. Our bodies requirea portion of sleep and that which is inevitable to the flesh has its likeness in the spirit-it must be quiet and still. Ibelieve it is inevitable, also, more or less, that the loftiest joy should be balanced by a sinking of heart. I do not saythat depression is certain to follow delight, but usually some kind of faintness comes over the finite spirit after it hasbeen lifted up into communion with the Infinite.
Do not, therefore, set too much store by your own feelings as evidences of Divine Grace. "The fruit of the Spirit is joy,"but you may not, at this moment, be conscious ofjoy. Trees are not always bearing fruit and yet "their substance is in themwhen they lose their leaves." Some young people say, "Oh, we know we are saved because we are so happy." It is by no meansa sure evidence, for joy may be carnal, unfounded, unspiritual. Certain Christians are afraid that they cannot be in a savedstate because they are not joyous, but we are saved by faith and not by joy! I was struck with the remark of Ebenezer Erskinewhen he was dying and someone said to him, "I hope you have, now and then, a blink to bear up your spirit under affliction."He promptly replied, "I know more of words than of blinks," that is to say he had rather trust a promise of God than his ownglimpses of Heaven! And so would I.
The Word of God is a more sure testimony to the soul than all the raptures a man can feel! I would sooner walk in the darkand hold hard to a promise of my God than trust in the light of the brightest day that ever dawned!. Precious as the fruitis, do not put the fruit where the root should be. Please remember that joy is not the root of Grace in the soul- it is thefruit and must not be put out of its proper position. "The fruit of the Spirit is joy" and it is brought forth in Believers,but not alike in all. But to all Believers there is a measure of joy.
II. Secondly, THIS JOY IS OF A SINGULAR CHARACTER. It is singular for this reason, that it often ripens under the most remarkablecircumstances. As I have already said, the highest joy of Christians has often been experienced in
their times of greatest distress. Tried Believers have been happy when smarting under pain, or wasting away with disease.Sick beds have been thrones to many saints-they have almost feared to come out of the furnace because the Presence of theLord in the midst of the fire has made it none other than the gate of Heaven to their souls! Saints in poverty have been madeexceedingly rich and when they have eaten a dry crust they have found a flavor in it which they never discovered in the daintiesof their abundance.
Many children of God, even when driven away from the outward means of Grace, have, nevertheless, enjoyed such visits of God,such inlets of Divine Love, that they have wondered from where such joy could come! In the wilderness, waters leap forth asdo streams in the desert. Believers are not dependent upon circumstances. Their joy comes not from what they have, but fromwhat they are-not from where they are, but from Whose they are-not from what they enjoy, but from that which was sufferedfor them by their Lord. It is a singular joy, then, because it often buds, blossoms and ripens in winter time and when thefig tree does not blossom and there is no herd in the stall. God's Habakkuks rejoice in the God of their salvation!
It is a singular joy, too, because it is quite consistent with spiritual conflict. He that is an heir of Heaven may cry, "Owretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" And yet, before the sigh is over, he may sing,"I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing! Straggling, yet always victorious! Cast down,but not destroyed! Persecuted, but not forsaken! Troubled and yet, all the while triumphant! Such is the mingled experienceof the saints. Oh, this is the wondrous Grace, this joy which can live side by side with conflict of the sorest sort. Thisjoy is special because at times it is altogether beyond description. One who was of a sober disposition called it "joy unspeakableand full of glory." "Full of glory!"
That is a wonderful expression! A drop of glory is sweet, but, oh, to taste a joy that is full of glory-is that possible here?Yes and some of us bear witness that it is so-we have felt joy that we dare not tell and could not tell if we dared- men wouldturn and tear us apart, condemning us as utterly fanatical or out of our minds if we were to cast these pearls before them!But, oh, if they could guess what delicious drafts are held within the jeweled chalice of Divine Communion with our Master,they would be ready to wade through Hell, itself, to drink from them! Our joy is altogether unspeakable joy at times.
One more singularity there is in it, for it is all the while solid, thoughtful, rational joy. The joy of the ungodly is likethe crackling of thorns under a pot-noisy and flashy-but soon over. The ungodly man feels merry, but really, if you come tolook into his mirth, there is nothing in it but flame without fuel, sparkle without solidity. But the Christian's joy is suchthat he has as much reason for it as if it were a deduction from mathematics. He has as just a right to be joyful as he hasto eat his own bread! He is certain of his pardon, for God has told him that a Believer in Christ is not condemned! And heis sure of his acceptance, for he is justified by faith. He knows that he is secure, for Christ has given him eternal lifeand said that His sheep shall never perish! He is happy, not for causes at which he guesses, but by Infallible reasons plainlyrevealed in God's Word! This makes Him joyful in the Lord when others wonder that he is so, for he perceives arguments forhappiness which are unknown to the thoughtless crowd.
That word, "joyful," is a very sweet and clear one. "Happiness" is a very dainty word, but yet it is somewhat insecure becauseit begins with a "hap," and seems to depend on a chance which may happen to the soul. We say "happy-go-lucky," and that isvery much the world's happiness-it is a kind of thing that may hap and may not hap-but there is no hap in the fruit of theSpirit which is joy! When we are joyful, or full of joy, and that of the best kind, we are favored, indeed! No man takes thisjoy from us and a stranger meddles not with it-it is a celestial fruit and earth cannot produce its like.
III. Thirdly, I would now refresh your memories and by the help of the Spirit of God bring back former joys to you-THIS JOYIS EXPERIENCED BY THE CHRISTIAN UNDER VARIOUS FORMS. Sometimes he experiences it in hearing the Word of God-it is writtenconcerning Samaria there was great joy in that city because Philip went down and preached the Gospel to them. Blessed arethe people that know the joyful sound! However, joy of hearing lies in believing what you hear. We get joy and peace in believing.When you get a grip of the Word of God-when the glad tidings becomes a message to your own soul and the Spirit speaks it toyour own heart, then you say, "Go on, man of God! Your sermon will not be too long today, for the Lord is laying it home tomy soul."
The reason why people grumble at long sermons is often because they do not feed on them. Very seldom the hungry man murmursat having too big a meal. It is a delightful thing to hear the Word faithfully preached. Have you not sometimes exclaimed,"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings glad tidings"? That is one occasion of joy. But what joythere is, dear Friends, in the salvation of God when we heartily receive it! Oh, how we bless the God of our salvation andhow we praise Him that He has saved us from our sins and from the wrath to come by giving us everlasting consolation and goodhope through Grace, by the sacrifice of His dear Son!
Frequently we revel in the privileges of the Covenant. The joy of my heart, when I think of the doctrine of Election, is quiteinexpressible. That hymn which begins-
"In songs of sublime adoration and praise,
You pilgrims to Zion who press,
Break forth and extol the great Ancient of Days
His rich and distinguishing Grace," is often with me and makes my heart merry. Then the doctrine of Redemption, of which Itried to speak last Lord's Day [Silver Sockets-Redemption the Foundation, Volume 27, Sermon #1581] how joyous it is! Whatbliss to know that the Redeemer lives! "Unto you that believe He is precious" and a fullness of joy flows forth at every remembranceof Him. Then that doctrine of Justification is the marrow of joy! Oh, to think that we are just in the sight of God throughJesus
All the Doctrines of Grace, especially that of Final Perseverance, are joyful Truths of God! I declare that if you take FinalPerseverance from me, you have robbed the Bible of one of its crowning attractions! Jesus has not given us a transient salvation,but His salvation shall be forever! I will quote again those matchless words of His-"I give unto My sheep eternal life andthey shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand." Honey flows here as in the woods of Jonathan! Put itto your mouth and your eyes shall be enlightened! The joy of God's people, when they can get half-an-hour alone and sit downand crack a dish of those nuts called the Doctrines of Grace, is such as philosophical worldlings might well desire! But themodern gospel has no such wines on the lees well-refined.
But, Brothers and Sisters, our most grand joy is in God Himself! Paul says, "and not only so, but we joy in God through ourLord Jesus Christ." Oh, to think of the great Father! What a melting of spirit comes over the child of God if at midnighthe looks up at the stars and considers the Heavens and cries, "What is man, that You are mindful of him?" To think that Heis not only mindful of us, but that He has taken us to be His sons and daughters! To feel the Spirit within our heart crying,"Abba, Father! Abba, Father!" Oh, this is joy in the most profound sense! How sweet to think of Jesus Christ the Son, theglorious Incarnate God, the Surety, the Satisfaction, the Representative, the All in All of His people! We joy in God throughour Lord Jesus Christ.
Nor do we miss the joy of the Spirit when we know that He dwells in us. He sanctifies us, comforts us and guides us in theroad to Heaven. Oh Brothers and Sisters, this is a sea of bliss, the infinite deeps of the eternal godhead! Leap from allyour miseries into this sea of Glory! Plunge into the joy of your Lord! This being so, we have a joy in all God's ordinances-"withjoy do we draw water out of the wells of salvation." What a joy prayer is-I hope you find it so. The Lord has said, "I willmake them joyful in My house of prayer." And what a joy it is to get answers to our petitions, even as our Lord says, "Askand you shall receive, that your joy may be full." Has not your joy been full till your eyes have been dim with tears andyou have not hardly dared to tell how wondrously God has answered you? The Mercy Seat is lit up with joy.
What a joyous ordinance is that of praise! We come up to the sanctuary and bring our offering to God and present Him our oblation,just as the Jew of old brought his bullock or his lamb-and we joyfully present our gift unto the Most High. Then we beginto sing His praises and our joy is the chief musician upon our stringed instruments. How our spirits rise as we adore theLord! The amount of happiness felt in this Tabernacle when we have been singing unto the Lord, can never be measured! Formy own part, I have seemed to stand just outside the wall of the New Jerusalem joining in the hymns which are sung withinthe gates of the Eternal City! One joy note has helped another and the volume of sound has affected every part of our beingand stirred us up to vehemence of joy!
And oh, what joy there is in coming to the Lord's Table! May we experience it tonight, as we have often done before. The Lordis known to us in the breaking of bread and that knowledge is blissful. But I have scarcely begun the list, for we have agreat joy in the salvation of other people! Perhaps one of the choicest delights we know is when we partake in the
joy of the good Shepherd over His lost sheep when He calls us together, for we, also, are His friends and His neighbors. AndHe bids us rejoice that He has found the sheep which was lost! Especially do we joy and rejoice if the poor wanderer has beenbrought back by our means. The jewels of an emperor are nothing compared with the riches we possess in winning a soul forChrist! "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." The joy of harvest is great, the joy of the man who comes again rejoicing,bringing his sheaves with him.
Do you know this joy, Brothers and Sisters? If you do not, awaken yourselves and may this sweet fruit of the Spirit yet beyours. Oh, the joy of seeing Christ exalted! John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." He called himselfthe Bridegroom's friend, and rejoiced greatly in the Bridegroom's joy. We can sympathize with him when we can bring abouta marriage between Christ and any poor soul-and help to put the ring on the finger. The joy we feel is of the purest and loveliestorder, for it is unselfish and refined. Let Jesus be exalted and we ask no more! If He reigns, we reign! If He is lifted up,our hearts are more than satisfied! Brethren, if we ever become perfect in heart, we shall joy in all the Divine will, whateverit may bring us.
I am trying, if I can, to find a joy in rheumatism, but I cannot get up to it yet. I have found a joy when it is over-I canreach that length-and I can and do bless God for any good result that may come of it. But when the pain is on me, it is difficultto be joyous about it and so I conclude that my sanctification is incomplete and my conformity to the Divine will is sadlyimperfect. Oh, the splendor of God's will! If a man were as he ought to be, God's will would charm him and he would not wishfor the smallest change in it! Poverty, sickness, bereavement, death-all are to be rejoiced in when our will is merged inthe will of God!
What? Would you alter God's infinitely wise appointment? Would you wish to change the purpose of unerring Love? Then you arenot wholly reconciled to God, for when the head gets quite right the heart climbs where Paul was when he said, "We glory intribulations, also, knowing that tribulation works patience, and patience experience." It needs a Samson to kill the lionof affliction and you cannot get honey out of it until it is conquered. But we might all be Samsons if we would but lay holdon the strength of God by faith! Dear Brothers and Sisters, the list ofjoys which I am even now only commencing, containsthe joy of an easy conscience, the joy of feeling you have done right before God, the joy of knowing that your objective,though misunderstood and misrepresented, was God's Glory! This is a jewel to wear on one's breast-a quiet conscience.
Then there is the joy of communion with Christ, the joy of fellowship with His saints, the joy of drinking deep into Christ'sspirit of self-sacrifice. There, too, is the joy of expecting His glorious Advent when He and His saints shall reign uponthe earth and the joy of being with Him forever! The joy of Heaven, the joy of which we have been singing just now. Thesejoys are countless, but I will pause here and leave you to make a fuller catalog when you are at home. May the Holy Spiritnot only refresh your memories concerning old joys, but bring forth out of His treasury new delights that your joy may befull!
IV. I must notice, in the fourth place, that THIS FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT MAY BE CHECKED IN ITS GROWTH. Some of you may have mutteredwhile I have been speaking of this joy, "I do not know much about it." Perhaps not, friend-shall I tell you why? Some peopleare too full of the joy of the world, the joy of getting on in business, the joy of a large family, the joy of health, thejoy of wealth, the joy of human love, or the joy which comes of the pride of life. These joys may be your idols and you knowthe joy of the Lord will not stand side by side with an idolatrous delight in the things of this world! See to that. Dagonmust fall if the Ark of the Lord is present-the world must lose its charms if you are to joy in Christ Jesus.
Our joy is sadly diminished by our unbelief. If you will not believe, neither shall you be established. Ignorance will dothe same to a very large extent. Many a Christian has a thousand reasons for joy which he knows nothing of. Study the Wordand ask for the teaching of the Spirit of God that you may understand it and so shall you discover wells of delight! Joy isdiminished, also, by walking at a distance from God. If you get away from the fire, you will grow cold-the warmest place isright in front of it and the warmest place for a believing heart is close to Christ in daily fellowship with Him. It may bethat indulged in sin is spoiling our joy. "This little hand of mine," as Mr. Whitfield once said, "can cover up the sun asfar as my eyes are concerned."
You have only to lift a naughty, rebellions hand and you can shut out the light of God, Himself-any known sin will do it.Trifling with sin will prove a killjoy to the heart. I believe that many lose the joy of the Lord because they do not
put it in the right place. See where it lives. Look at my text-"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy and peace." There joystands in the center-"love" is on one side and "peace" on the other! Find a man who never loved anybody and you have founda joyless man. This man's religion begins and ends with looking to his own safety. The only point he longs to know is-is hesaved? He never knows joy, poor creature, how can he? As to peace, where is it? He has none because wherever he goes he growls,grumbles, snarls and barks at everybody. There is no peace where he is! He is always quarrelling and then he says, "I havelittle joy."
He does not live in the right house for joy! Joy dwells at No. 2. "Love" is No. 1-"joy" is No. 2-"peace" is No. 3 and if youpull down either of the houses on the side, No. 2, in the middle, will tumble down! Joy is the center of a triplet and youmust have it so or not at all-"Love, joy, peace." Thus I have shown how the growth of joy can be checked. I pray you do notallow such an evil thing to be worked in your heart.
V. But, lastly, IT OUGHT TO BE CAREFULLY CULTIVATED. There is an obligation upon a Christian to be happy. Let me say it again-thereis a responsibility laid upon a Christian to be cheerful! It is not merely an invitation, but it is a command-"Be glad inthe Lord and rejoice, you righteous." "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice." Gloomy Christians who do notresist despondency and strive against it, but who go about as if midnight had taken up its abode in their eyes and an everlastingfrost had settled on their souls are not obeying the commands of God! The command to rejoice is as undoubted a precept ofGod as to love the Lord with all your heart. The vows of God are upon you, O Believer, and they bind you to be joyful!
In this joyfulness you shall find many great advantages. First, it is a great advantage, in itself, to be happy. Who wouldnot rejoice if he could? Who would not rejoice when God commands him? Rejoicing will nerve you for life's duties. "The joyof the Lord is your strength." A man who goes about Christ's work in an unwilling, miserable spirit will do it badly and feebly.He may do it earnestly, but there will be no life or energy about him. Hear how the sailors, when they pull the rope, willshout and sing and work all the better for their cheery notes! I do not believe our soldiers would march to battle with halftheir present courage if they tramped along in silence. Beat the drums! Let the trumpet sound forth its martial note! Everyman is eager for the fray while soul-stirring music excites him. Let your heart make music unto God and you will fight valiantlyfor the Kingdom of your Lord.
Holy joy will also be a great preventive. The man who feels the joy of the Lord will not covet worldly joy. He will not betempted to make a God of his possessions or of his talents, or of anything else. He will say, "I have joy in God. These thingsI am very thankful for, but they are not my joy." He will not crave the aesthetic in worship, for his joy will be in God andHis Truth-not in external forms. Some people's idea of joy in religion lies in fine singing, charming music, pretty dresses,splendid architecture, or showy eloquence. They need this because they do not know the secret joy of the Lord, for when thatholy passion reigns within, you may sit inside four whitewashed walls and not hear a soul speak for a whole hour and a halfand yet you may have as intense a joy as if you listened to the most earnest oratory or the sweetest song!-
"Joy in God is suitable to our condition! Why should the children of a king Go mourning all their days?"
What are we doing now, some of us? We have been hanging our harps on the willows-let us take them down-the willow limbs willbend! Thank God we did not break the harps, though we did hang them there. Let us get into our right position-children ofthe happy God should, themselves, be happy. Joy is certainly the best preparation for the future. We are going where, if welearn to groan ever so deeply, our education will be lost, for melancholy utterances are unknown up there! We are going where,if we learn to sing with sacred joy, our education will be useful, for the first thing we shall hear when we get into Heavenwill undoubtedly be, "Hallelujah to God and the Lamb!" And if we have been joyful on earth we shall say, "Ah, I am at homehere!"
To enter Heaven with a joyful soul is only to rise from downstairs to the upper chamber where the music knows no discord.It is the same song in both places, "Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His blood." Joy in the Lord willbe very helpful to you as to usefulness. I am sure a Christian man's usefulness is abridged by dreariness of spirit. Whatnice Sunday school teachers some Christians I know of would make! "Come you children, hearken unto me, I will teach you themiseries of religion!" And the dear Brother begins by telling the children about the Slough of De-
spond, Giant Despair and the Valley of the Shadow of Death! He wonders, when he gets home, that the dear children are notattracted to the ways of godliness! Are they likely to be? A member of a Church who has no joy of the Lord is little likelyto encourage or influence others-they edge away from him.
Even those who try to comfort him find it is to no purpose and so they give him a wide berth. You hear him stand up to addressan assembly of Believers, to tell his experience, and after a very little of it you feel you have had enough. Those who drinkwine will tell you that half a dozen drops of vinegar are more than they need in a glass of wine and those who carry the cruetabout wherever they go are not choice company! I do not find fault with gloomy souls, but they might be more useful if theycould live more in the sunlight! The joy of the Lord is the most injurious to Satan's empire of anything. I am of the samemind as Luther, who, when he heard any very bad news, used to say, "Come, let us sing a Psalm and spite the devil."
There is nothing like it! Whenever anything happens that is rough and ugly and seems to injure the Kingdom of Christ, sayto yourself, "Bless the Lord, glory be to His name." If the Lord has been dishonored by the falling away of a false professor,or the failure of the ministry in any place, let us give Him all the more honor, ourselves, and in some measure make up forall that has happened amiss. And, lastly, holy joy is very pleasing to God. God delights in the joy of His creatures. He madethem to be happy! His first and original design in the creation of all beings is His own Glory in their happiness. When Hispeople rejoice He rejoices.
Some of you spent Christmas day in the bosom of your families. Possibly you have a large family-10 or 12 were at home on thatday, with a grandchild or two. I will tell you what was your greatest joy on that day-it was to see the happiness of yourchildren and to mark how they enjoyed what you had provided for them. They are only little children, some of them, creepingabout on the floor, but they pleased you because they were so pleased themselves! The joy of a little child delights yourheart to hear it, for it gives us joy to behold joy in those we love. Suppose your sons and daughters had all come marchingin on Christmas day in a very gloomy state of mind-cold, loveless, joyless-suppose that they did not enjoy anything, but grumbledat you and at one another? You would be quite sad and wish the day to be soon over and never come again for the next sevenyears!
Thus in a figure we see that our heavenly Father delights in the delight of His children and is glad to see them gratefuland happy and acting as children should do towards such a Parent! Now, Brothers and Sisters, rise as one man and sing-
"Then let our songs abound, And every tear be dry!
We're marching thro' Immanuel's ground
To fairer worlds on high.