The Full Joy
“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” –John 15:11
The world is famous for its misconceptions and general ignorance of the Divine Being. We hear almost daily, passing current, and rarely contradicted, things attributed to God that rob Him of all pity and mercy, and give Him a ferocity and undying spirit of vengeance that can not find a shadow of confirmation in the Bible or in these heaven-blessed lives of ours. It is against these misrepresentations, these perversions of the character of God, that infidels rave today, and think they assail the Lord of the Bible, when they are striking at an awful caricature of the Almighty.
In like manner men fall into mistakes about the Saviour. The popular view is that He was a very sad man, a man of sorrows above all other men; that while He was seen to weep, no one ever saw Him smile or heard Him laugh. All the pictures I ever beheld of the Saviour, and especially the old paintings I viewed of Him in the art galleries of Europe, represented Him with face melancholy, tears and blood-stained, or convulsed with agony.
It is well for us to remember that if Christ had sorrows, they were not for Himself. What had His pure heart and beautiful holy life done that He should grieve? If He was sad it was not about Himself, and if He wept, behold! it was over Jerusalem.
It is also well to bear in mind that if Christ bore habitually the melancholy, agonized look that painters give Him, that His invitations to and sermons on Rest would have been utter failures. Think of a being with a confirmed look of grief, saying, “Come, and I will give you rest.” Who believes that the little children would have stretched out their arms and nestled in His breast if He had the gloomy countenance with which tradition invests Him.
With these opening remarks, I now call your attention to the blessed facts I find in the text. And first–
1. THAT CHRIST HAS A JOY.
Do you remember with what strains of triumph and gladness Prophecy spoke of the coming of Christ into the world? Read anywhere you will in the Old Testament, and whether it is Jacob, Balaam, David or Isaiah speaking, all had the words and accent of a great joy in telling of the advent of the Messiah.
Then what joy the night of His birth. Angels swung low in the sky over the fields of Bethlehem, and the world, as well as the astonished shepherds, has never forgotten the gladness of their song of annunciation, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men.”
Concerning His Kingdom, the Bible says it is one of “Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
Concerning Himself the word of God declares, “Thou hast anointed Him with the oil of gladness above all His fellows.”
In confirmation of the fact of His own personal happiness and soul buoyancy, Christ says here in the text, “My Joy.”
So He had a joy. This is not the only time He refers to it, and there were times it so blazed out of His face that men wondered. About His joy I notice several things.
One was that it was of a profoundly deep nature. It was not the noisy brawl of the shallow brook, but would be better pictured by a silent, outspread ocean; I love demonstrativeness in the religious life, but I have seen souls so full of holy joy that the very weight of the glory produced stillness.
Again, this joy appeared in the unlikeliest times. It was when one would think that surrounding unbelief and apparent defeat would bring occasion for sorrow, that suddenly the joy of Christ would came forth greater than ever. Notably was this seen when the Pharisees hardened their hearts against His teaching. Yet it is written, wonder upon wonder! that Jesus rejoiced in spirit and said, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes.” Again, in the darkness and horror of the dying hour on the cross, His joy burst forth again in the cry, “It is finished!” Oh, what was in that dying cry! The work of such a lifetime, the salvation of the world, the way opened up for the return of a lost race–all had been accomplished. No wonder His last cry was the shout “It is finished!” While others wept, groaned and trembled, Jesus expired with a mighty cry of triumph. Isaiah throws light on it in the words, “He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.”
Still again, Christ’s joy remained in the darkest circumstances. Judas betrayed Him, but His peace could no man take away. Peter denied Him, but He remained calm and restful. Many turned from following Him at one time, and at another hour the twelve fled, leaving Him bound in the hands of His enemies. But He said in the midst of it all that He was not alone; that the Father was with Him, and left record in that speech of a joy as far above the pleasures known by what is called the multitude or crowd as heaven is above the earth. What a marvelous gladness is that which neither desertion of friend or wrath of enemy or assault of hell could disturb or destroy! And yet this is what Christ had.
A second thought I find in the text is:
2. THAT CHRIST HAS A WISH FOR HIS FOLLOWERS.
First, He wants us to have joy. This is the plain statement of the text, and completely refutes the idea of a gloomy Christianity. There are some people who think cheerfulness is a sin; that to unbend from the severest gravity shows loss of grace and savors of iniquity. I know of people who have that idea of the Christian religion, and will not allow children to play, and when a bright conversational spirit is indulged with smiles and an occasional laugh, will say to one thus offending, “Look out, brother,” “Be careful, my Christian friend.”
I can see how wrong instruction about the spirit of Christianity, and how ill-health, and ascetic times and ages could generate such views. But this does not make it right, and we need to come into the clear, cloudless presence of Christ to be correctly taught about the sunniness of the piety.
I am not standing for hilarity, jocularity or frivolity, but the joy that comes from salvation. There are two kinds of joy unquestionably. The outbursts of merriment among the worldly have no place in the happiness I speak of here. I remember that a gentleman came to one of my meetings, and as he marked the glad spirit, listened to the shouts and occasional laughter of the shining faced congregation, he was at first disturbed and displeased; but in a little while he saw the laugh and gladness was not of the world at all–that it was of heaven, and that worldly people could see nothing in it and could not join in it. So he sought me out and said, “I take back all I said about this meeting, I see it is of God.” So distinct and separate are the joys of salvation and of the world that I have noticed that when the world laughs the real Christian does not, and when Christians rejoice and shout sinners are silent.
Again, while Christ wants us to have joy, He desires it to be His joy. The text is explicit here–“That my joy might be in you.” This , of course, makes it a holy gladness, and separates it from the unprofitable mirth of the world. As a Christ-like joy, it must be like His in the respects I have mentioned. In the unlikeliest times it must flame out. Just as I once heard a sanctified man shout while listening to an anti-holiness sermon, and just as I have seen bereaved people suddenly rejoice by the side of open coffin or grave. At the very moment others who have not this joy would go down we who possess it must arise and shine. In the darkest circumstances it should beam forth like a star clear and white through rifted clouds at midnight. This was Christ’s joy, and He wants us to have it.
Then He desires our joy to be full. Here must go down all argument for a gloomy religion and ascetic piety. How can such views stand a moment before the words, “These things have I spoken unto you–that your joy might be full.”
Still again, He wants this full joy to remain. He says this in so many words. Where is he who can plead for a variable, fluctuating religious experience in the face of this text? To all who look for occasional spells of gladness and many days of unrest, uncertainty, and even gloom, I call attention to the words of the Son of God, “These things have I spoken that my joy might remain in you.” A full joy in the heart and remaining, seems to settle the question with me about an even religious experience, a constantly shining face and an unbroken victory in the soul. I see no room for moping and melancholy. Of course Christ does not mean that everything on the outside will be straightened up; He is speaking of the inside. He says distinctly, in the world ye shall have tribulation, but in Me ye shall have peace. There may be war and discord in the world, but peace and joy shall be in the soul.
3. THE REASON FOR OUR POSSESSING THIS JOY.
One reason is that the joyful state is the proper condition of the soul. It seems to quicken and arouse every dormant faculty of the spirit. We have all seen ordinary people become extraordinary under spiritual rapture, and all who listen to me now can recall times when, under the spell of holy joy, you stood transfigured, not only before your friends, but before yourself. Then arose to the surface gifts and capacities that you scarcely dreamed of; there were depths of love, a sweeping rush of speech, and possibility and ability as well, to achieve and suffer for God and man, all suddenly revealed to you, that filled you with tremblings of a delicious happiness. Joy seems to have the touch of the Prince that wakes up the slumbering beauties and powers of the soul.
Again, it best recommends the service and Kingdom of Christ. One thing you will readily see, that an illy dressed child, a sad and hungry looking clerk and laborer is a sad commentary on the family that claims or the firm that employs them. In like manner a melancholy Christian will but poorly represent a gospel that means Good News, and a Saviour who is said to be anointed with joy above all His fellows.
Recently at a meeting a woman of eighty years of age, and member of the church all her life, came to the altar. Noticing the look of settled gloom on her face and bidding her look to Christ, she replied: “I have been a mourner sixty years!” She evidently intended to impress me, and she did. Think of a soul mourning in the service of God for over half a century! And think of the harm she had done, the low spirits and blue horrors she had generated in others in that time by her very appearance, not to speak of her words. On the other hand, a child of God happy and rejoicing becomes a walking advertisement of the goodness of God and the preciousness of the Gospel.
Again, this joy is attractive.
We need a drawing power in the church. And Christ has supplied it in the bright faces and overflowing hearts of His people. When the holy gladness filled the disciples the whole city of Jerusalem was affected, and rushed down to behold the marvelous spectacle of joy-filled men and women, and from that day to this whenever the church has hearkened to Christ, and tarried for this blessed, abiding experience, the old attractive power and drawing influence has at once been felt. We need none of the wretched make-shifts we see in some places today. We need no games, frolics and church suppers. The Holy Ghost filling us with a holy joy will draw the right crowd and draw them not for amusement, but for salvation.
I am sure that if we were prospecting for a settlement somewhere, and on passing the shores of a certain country would see that all the inhabitants, whether on street or road, in field or on bank of river, were looking healthy and happy, we would feel like casting anchor and driving down stakes with them. On the other hand, if they looked poorly fed, were in rags, and had sallow, cadaverous countenances, we would naturally sail by such a country that was killing the inhabitants by poverty and malaria.
Only let the church get the full and abiding joy of Christ, and there will be a rush from the ranks of sinners to join the happy, singing, shouting servants of Heaven, whose faces, voices and lives all agree in the testimony of having a better time than the world ever dreamed of. It is not mournful songs of captivity by the waters of Babel that will win men to us, but hallelujahs of salvation and perfect spiritual freedom ringing forth on the air. It is not a willow wand we want, but a palm branch. Not a miserere, but a rapturous Hosanna.
“Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing.”
Again this joy convicts.
We all crave for the church the power to smite sinners to the heart. We want to see them troubled so that they cannot eat, drink or sleep, but will fall headlong at the altar, crying for mercy.
In all my round of observation and reading I have never known anything to surpass in convicting influence the sight of a body of God’s people filled with a mighty, holy joy. It was this very spectacle at Pentecost that broke to pieces a multitude in Jerusalem, and made men smite their breasts, crying out, “What must we do?” We have all seen similar scenes many times and in widely separated places, and I have observed that men who can brace themselves successfully against argument, reproof, song and sermon go down in the presence of a genuine general rejoicing of the church. On one occasion I beheld a powerful conviction fall on a congregation, brought about by the loud, continuous laughter of two sanctified people in the audience. They were male and female, were on opposite sides of the church, and did not even know each other, but God filled their souls and overflowed their lips with rapturous laughter. Oh, how they laughed! and how startled the audience looked! They felt they were being flanked. Then a great awe settled down upon the assembly, and that night the altar was filled.
Here we are looking around for great men and mighty arguments to sweep down the opposition of sin and the world, when if we would only wait on God until we obtained this joy of Christ that is full and that remains nothing could stand before us.
Furthermore, this joy is an inspiration to Christian endeavor and achievement.
I was reading recently of a great fire in one of our large cities. One lofty building was soon doomed, when, on the top floor, a child was seen at a window A fireman ran up the ladder and tried to enter a room in the story below, but the heat and smoke were so great that he recoiled. Just then some one in the crowd below, marking his hesitation, cried out, “Give him a cheer,” and at once a mighty shout went up. It fired and filled the man, and he made a great leap, and dashing through the window into the room staggered through the smoke up the staircase into the upper floor, caught the child and in a few moments reappeared at the window with it in his arms. As he descended the long ladder and gave the child in safety to its distracted loved ones, the shout that followed fairly rent the heavens.
This is what is needed in the church today, and yet what is rarely seen or heard. There are reforms to be made, rebukes to be uttered and deeds to be done in the denunciation of sin or the defense of truth where the preacher, writer or worker needs to be cheered and in every way morally sustained by the people of God everywhere. Instead of this, however, he finds to his amazement that he is lectured for his boldness, told that he is without tact, informed that he is fanatical and extreme and advised to go slow. This comes often from high quarters, where he should have met with encouragement and approval. What wonder that many ardent spirits have been chilled. A divine vocation is transformed into a mere profession, and a flaming messenger of Heaven into a simple pulpit figurehead.
Instead of this if the church was full of holy joy, her cries of faith, spirit of courage and waving banners of victory would gladden, inspire and electrify the hearts of her sons and daughters in difficult and dangerous places; and brilliant deeds and wonders of accomplishment would be seen on all sides, to the astonishment of hell, the delight of earth and joy of heaven.
Lord, give us this great and glad blessing.
4. THIS JOY IS THE RESULT OF A SECOND WORK OF GRACE.
Please read again the first five words of the text: “These things have I spoken.” What things? Read the sixteenth chapter of John from which the text is taken. The things that Christ had been speaking about were the vine and branches. He said that some of these branches which bore no fruit were taken away and burned. Then He said there were other branches which did bear fruit. Notice they were in the vine which is Christ, and bearing fruit. But mark you the Divine Husbandman purgeth or cleanseth these fruit-bearing limbs that they might bring forth more fruit.
This is what a great wing in the church is contending for today; that after getting into Christ, feeling the sap of the Divine life coursing in us, and bringing forth fruit unto God, there is a second and subsequent work of grace which purgeth, cleanseth and purifieth the soul, and from that hour we bring forth fruit more abundantly.
Jesus had been speaking of this cleansing, and so says: “These things have I spoken to you;” that is, all about the purging of the branch in the vine; and to the end that they might have his joy, a full joy and a joy that would remain.
There is no question but that this is the only way to obtain the gladness He speaks of. He who is already in Christ the Vine, and will seek the Divine cleansing or purification of his justified soul, will immediately receive Christ’s joy which is full and will remain.
The very expression, “My joy,” shows a second and subsequent experience. Christ’s joy is not the happiness of a pardoned man. The justified soul has a gladness of its own. Hence we have the two expressions in the text, “My joy” and “Your joy.”
Let “My joy” remain in you and “your joy” will be full, are the words of the Saviour. May they be followed out today. Let every justified man, or branch in the vine, get the purging from inbred sin by the baptism of the Holy Ghost and the result will be not only more fruit in the life, but Christ’s joy in the soul; a full joy at that, and one that remains in spite of every circumstance and condition of life.
5. WHAT IS THIS JOY.
It has component parts. It is subject to spiritual analysis. And it actually increases the gladness of the owner to observe the different parts of this complete whole.
It is the joy of purity.
This is what takes place in sanctification. When the baptism of the Holy Ghost fell on the disciples, Peter said their hearts were “purified by faith.” The instant we receive the second work of grace we feel the same purification. This is the first thought that thrills the soul, “I am clean.” It is not the cleanness that comes from pardoned sin, but a purity which has been wrought by the Baptism of Fire. The soul feels that it has been made pure. This is not only a conviction, but a blessed realization. It is this distinct experience and soul possession or heart condition which gives such a buoyancy to the spirit, such a brightness to the face, such a flash and sparkle to the eye, such a thrill to the voice and causes such hallelujahs and joyous songs to flow from the lips.
The instant the soul loses this distinct experience of purity, it droops! the face clouds, the daughters of music become still and the whole life silent and melancholy.
I once heard of a canary bird that was a great singer. He was at it from morning to night as he fluttered about in his handsome cage that had in it every supply for his wants. One day his little glass bowl was broken which was bath-tub or cleansing fountain to him. Immediately it was noticed that he began to droop, sang fitfully and on the second day quit singing altogether. All were alarmed about the little pet and thought he was sick. After nearly a week another glass bowl full of water was placed in the cage. At once the bird flew to its brim and in a flutter of delight began to scatter the crystal fluid and spray it over his feathers and prune and cleanse himself. At the same time the singing recommenced? It seemed that he only sang when he was clean.
So with the soul. Take away the sense of cleanness and it droops and is silent. But as long as it keeps pure with the cleansing blood of Christ it sings, no matter where it is. It is happy and blest with the joy of conscious purity.
Second, It is the joy of obedience.
Do you know there is scarcely a sweeter joy. Many of us have been misinformed and wrongly taught about it. Most of us grew up with the idea that obedience was a kind of slavery which we would gladly throw off when we were grown. Satan also has whispered the falsehood to us that obedience to anyone was a species of bondage, that the law and commandments of God were oppressive and that having our own way and throwing off all authority was the way to happiness. That disobedience brought not only freedom but gladness and delight. Alas, that any of us ever believed him and fell into his snares.
If disobedience brings gladness, why is the disobedient child so dark-faced, sullen and miserable. I recall once having played truant from school. I did so at the instigation of a classmate who told me that if I would not go to school, but let the family think I had gone, I could fill the hours thus taken from tiresome book tasks with joy by playing truant or “hookey” as he called it. I believed him, deceived my mother, stayed from school and tried to frolic away the five or six hours with my young companions in the basement of a large dwelling. A number of games were played and there was a great effort to be happy. But to this day I remember the length of those hours, the dreariness of the games, and the heavy load and sick heart I carried in my breast. I never played “hookey” again. I found out that disobedience was not the way for a boy to find happiness. On the other hand have we not all noticed how bright, cheerful and contented, obedient children are.
Disobedience does not bring gladness to the citizen. Let a man break the law and then behold his wretchedness. Thoughts of jail, the apprehension of officers, writs of arrest and commitments now fill and terrorize his mind. But look at the obedient citizen, how he walks unconcerned by penitentiaries, brushes the very sleeve of a policeman and is full of rest as to that side of life. What and why should he fear? He is keeping the law.
Now take the sinner or refractory child of God. Do we not know that disobedience makes them both miserable? Do I need to prove it when we see their miserable faces and hear their wretched confessions?
It is obedience to God that brings joy. Many of us have found it so; and that while occasional facts of submission brought blessing, that a constant submission and steady obedience fills the soul with perfect peace. The happiest man that ever lived, the One who was anointed with joy, above all his fellows said, “Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,” and again, “I always do those things which please Him.” This Christ-joy, God will put in every believers heart who will seek it as should be done.
Third, It is the joy of sacrifice.
How the world dreads this word and its practice in life. The very terms self-immolation, self-abnegation, crucifixion and death of self fills them with pain. They believe such a life is one of misery. Satan has told them so, and they believe him. They do not know that the purest happiness arises from the spirit and practice of sacrifice or living and dying for others. Feeling as they do that the way to happiness is by self coddling and gratification they avoid the life we speak of in every conceivable way. They clamor for their rights, struggle for their privileges, and live for their own comfort and ease. We have only to glance at them to see they have met with utter failure to find happiness by the route they travel. The most miserable people I ever met are those who always must have and do have what they call “their way.” The funeral of their pleasure and contentment was long ago predicted by Christ when He said, “He that saveth his life shall lose it.”
We read of one in this Book who never pleased Himself. He emptied Himself for the happiness and salvation of others. His whole life was one long sacrifice. Was He miserable? Read the texts “These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might remain in you.” Study the people who are filled with His Spirit and copy His example and see if they are gloomy.
Did you ever hear of the household drudge. By some kind of tacit agreement or understanding the whole family allow one member to bear the main burden of work. I have seen such things done, and saw a light in the countenance of that over-loaded and over-worked one that was not to be seen in the others.
I was once visiting a Faith Home in, one of our large cities, it was run in behalf of foundlings. One of the nurses was a young woman of nineteen or twenty, Her face was fairly lustrous with that “shine” the Holy Ghost alone can give. I was so struck with the holy joyful light which beamed from her countenance that I asked about her, and found that she was a young lady who had voluntarily entered upon this work of nursing and taking care of these poor little cast off infants; that she refused all compensation and did it from pure love to Christ and these deeply wronged children. The life of sacrifice brought a joy to her heart and beautiful light to her face that could never be found in the abodes of selfishness and worldly pleasure.
I once had a presiding elder who so loved the work of God and the souls of men, that he would stay away from his home two and three months at a time on his district. He loved his home but soul saving had become a passion with him and he burned up to do good. Several times I slept in the same room with him, and when he prayed by his bedside before retiring I have seen him so under the power of God that he shook and trembled like a man with a congestive chill. The whole life was one of sacrifice and the same joy that filled his Lord was overflowing him as the inseparable accompaniment and compensation of such a life.
Fourth, It is the joy of persecution. How men dread persecution. They think that when abuse, detraction and opposition comes to the life, joy must go. How is it possible to be happy when everybody is talking about them and in various ways is against them. Hence many thousands carefully avoid saying and doing anything that will bring such a storm down upon their lives.
I once thought that the people who were abused and slandered in the Christian life must be perfectly miserable and unable to eat or sleep. I never made a greater mistake in my life. On coming to know such people I found them radiant with joy, eating well, sleeping quietly, and working for God joyously without any letting up. The miserable people I found were those who were conducting the persecution. Peter slept in the dungeon of the castle while his would-be murderers could not rest. Daniel was quiet and in full serenity of spirit in the den of lions. It was the king who had him put in who “cried out with a lamentable voice,” while Daniel’s voice was strong and courageous as he said, “O King, my God can deliver me.”
Do you know what Christ said we must do under persecution? Maybe you have not read it. Here it is: “When men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake–rejoice and be exceedingly glad!” and in another place He says, “Leap for joy!”
One only need look at the sufferings of the apostles to see that they were much happier than the men who beat them. The Bible says the disciples rejoiced, while their tormentors raged and gnashed their teeth. Stephen had a better time than the howling mob who stoned him to death. When they laid hands upon him his face was like that of an angel, and in the midst of the shower of rocks and stones that were cracking the bones and staving in skull and body, he prayed for them and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” fell gently to sleep. Paul after his stoning, went into town and comforted the disciples. Wonder upon wonder. He did the comforting; the man who had been dragged out of the city and pelted with great stones until all thought he was dead. The martyrs all died rejoicing whether thrown to wild beasts, crucified or burned at the stake. Wesley was happier far than the ecclesiastics who slandered him in print and stirred up multitudes to mob him. And so it has been all along, is now, and ever shall b e, the man or woman persecuted for righteousness sake is always happier than the persecutor.
I had a preacher friend who received this fullness of joy or sanctification. From that hour he had trouble with his Conference. In addition to trials and opposition of every kind, he was openly denounced and ridiculed on the conference floor, one preacher saying that he would rather have the devil turned loose on his circuit than this same brother. At this moment a number of eyes were turned toward the corner where sat the abused but silent man of God, and it was noticed that his face had the light of a strange, sweet peace upon it, and that he evidently was the happiest man in the conference room. In a word when Jesus sees one of His servants suffering for Him, He instantly flies to his side and ranks with him. The three in the fire increase to four, and the form of the fourth is that of the Son of God. So blessed and heavenly is that communion, so absorbed is the persecuted man in what Christ is saying that he forgets or neglects to hear what his persecutors are talking about.
Fifth, It is the joy of standing alone for God.
Some of you know the gladness of standing for God in company with others. I grant you that this also is blessed. It always brings a reward to the breast to be on the side of right and truth. But did you know that there was a peculiar rapture and blessedness standing alone for the Lord? Because of the difficulty of so doing there had to be, and ought to be a special reward in spiritual things for the position and life of solitary faithfulness.
If the sight moves us, how must it effect God to see an individual true to Him, though family friends and all men fall away. Do not think of repining because of such a state of affairs. Christ marks the devotion and will bless. He sees His follower unappreciated in the home circle, isolated by the church, and rejected by the world, and yet standing true to Him in face of it all. For such a soul He has the sweetest and holiest joy of the other world for compensation.
You may think some of you that you have great happiness in the Christian life with big conventions, church societies, great union revivals, while you keep step in the rank and file, led by the music of the band. It is all right, I say nothing against it; but I tell you there is a joy in standing alone for God that for depth and purity and rapture has never entered some of your minds to conceive.
I see the Saviour in the Temple Court beringed with Pharisees and Elders trying to entrap and find cause of accusation against him. He stood alone for his Father, and yet that solitary One speaks of a joy that no man could take from him.
I see John in exile on Patmos. But oh the rapture of opening heavens, visions of the golden-paved, jasper-walled city, and the thrilling communion and glorious visible presence of the Son of God. Surely he lost nothing for being lonely for the sake of Christ.
I recall once in my life that I was led of God to uphold a great truth in a large city which brought the newspapers down on me, made my Board of Stewards petition me not to preach on the subject, and caused hundreds of people to turn against me. I saw it all and accepted the loneliness for Jesus’ sake, and in my room, before the delivery of a second sermon on the subject I was so filled with the Holy Ghost, that I was unable for several hours to do anything but cry, Glory — Glory — Glory to God! Alone, and yet not alone. On Patmos, but Heaven in full view.
Sixth, It is the joy of constant victory.
The joy of a single victory is great. Men love to recall and speak of the successful combat in boyhood against great odds. They love in old age to tell how they downed after a hard contest the bully of the school. Samson turned aside to see the carcass of the lion he had slain some weeks before. He found it full of honey and went down the road eating some of the sweet dripping comb. In like manner we love to survey the victory of the past, and it is always full of sweetness. The greater and nobler the victory the sweeter the reflection. And as the mightiest foes are found and greatest battles fought in the moral life, so a victory won on that field is the most blessed of all triumphs and affords the deepest joy. A single victory won there is always pleasant to recall. But what if we obtain a blessing that brings us constant victories over all kinds of foes and at all times. What an experience that would be, a joy made up of a countless succession of joys; and all this gladness springing from perpetual victory over self and sin through the blood of Christ as realized in the grace of sanctification.
In such a life as this, dead lions full of honey are found everywhere, strewn along not only the days but the hours. The soul is flushed, the heart sings, the lips shout over constant and countless triumphs in the spiritual life. Walls crack and fall, seas open, rivers divide, and devils fear and fly. We are not only conquerors, but more than conquerors through Him who loves us and dwells in us. Hallelujah!
There is, thank God, a victory side to our blessed Christianity. Men have been slow to realize it, but they are finding it out at last. There is no need to have a single defeat. Christ is greater than the devil. Grace abounds over sin. Heaven is mightier than hell. The blood cleanses from all sin and keeps us pure as well. Jesus is mighty to save. He is not only the uttermost Saviour but the innermost, outermost and uppermost Saviour. Through Him we can do all things. And so the triumphs take place and we live on “the victory side,” and with the victory of course comes the joy.
Did any one ever study the difference between defeated and victorious armies? Who that read the newspaper accounts of the late Turkish and Grecian war but could through the very type see and feel the despondency of the defeated retreating troops, and the joy and enthusiasm of the advancing hosts.
There was once a European war. Two reporters were sent the field, one on either side. One was with the victorious army, the other with the side which was falling back. The letters of these two reporters were studies as to contrasts. Both were passing through the same country, along the same roads, viewing the identical scenery. But one wrote that it was a melancholy looking land, with nothing to cheer the eye or hold in pleasant recollection. The other wrote that the landscapes were lovely, the tints on the mountains exquisite, the skies blue, the woods vocal with singing birds, and the fields beautiful and gay with wild flowers. The explanation was that the first man was with a defeated and retreating army, and the second was with a victorious and advancing one.
Every day nearly I see these two reporters reproduced in the Christian life. The sad and the glad are side by side in the same family, church or community. If the truth were known, one is falling back, the other pressing forward. The drooping spirits infallibly declare the fact of moral defeat in heart and life. Men and women may plead ill-health and other things as the cause, but the truth is that the soul is not on the victory side as it can and should be.
When we obtain the blessing which as Paul says, “Always causeth us to triumph,” then the whole life is vitalized afresh, the soul is filled with melody, the lips overflow with praise, and the very face in its rested, happy look tells of a great indwelling gladness. We view the same scenes, pass through the same hours, have the same besetments and difficulties, but instead of retreat it is advance with the soul, and instead of defeat there is constant victory. Hence the joy.
Seventh, and finally, it is the joy of full salvation.
There is a Christian life that is notable for its man-fear, irritability and fluctuation. There is another which is remarkable for its sweetness, boldness and steadfastness. The Bible speaks of both, and life and experience tell of both. We find that just as the disciples were metamorphosed on the Day of Pentecost and became like new men, so there is a blessing which purifies and empowers the believer today and fills him with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. All who come into this grace, whether agreeing upon terms or not as to its proper title, unite in the belief through a common experience that they possess a full salvation. It is not simply a free, but a full salvation. It is not only enough for those who have it, but they have an overflowing abundance which flows out to others. This full salvation brings a steady peace, an abiding assurance, a mighty confidence in God, a constant reliance on the blood, a continuous victory over sin and Satan, a rejoicing evermore, a praying without ceasing, and in everything a giving of thanks.
This is full salvation. This is what Christ prayed that we might have. And when a man has it, his joy is bound to be full, and better still it will remain.
When the people of God obtain this grace, then will Zion arise and shine; then will salvation be seen in her like a lamp that shines and like a fire that burns. Filled with this holy, quenchless joy, the church will draw the people to her like doves to the windows, nations will be born in a day, continents will wheel into line and the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and His Christ.