Stacks Image 905


PART II. THE POWER OR EFFECTS OF FAITH IN THE REGULATION OF MAN’S INWARD NATURE.



CHAPTER TWENTIETH.


ON THE RELATION OF FAITH IN THE LORD TO REJOICING IN THE LORD.


Preliminary statements. Rejoicing in the Lord a scriptural state of mind. Distinction between rejoicing in the Lord and rejoicing in ourselves. Rejoicing in the Lord not at variance with prayer. Relation of faith to rejoicing in the Lord.

IT is worthy of notice, that persons, as they advance in religious experience, gradually undergo a transition from a state of prayer to a state of praise. When, by passing through the death of nature, they have entered into the region of a truly regenerate life, and have experienced something of the higher results of sanctification, the state of mind is, for the most part, one of rejoicing; in accordance with the divine precept, “rejoice ever more.” A song of divine jubilation, a hymn of inward triumph in the Lord, not wholly unlike that which we may suppose to ascend from the happy hearts of angels, is going up from the soul almost without cessation. This is a distinct and frequent modification of Christian experience, when the experience, advancing beyond its more common forms, has reached a certain position in its triumphant progress.

2.—Persons, who are in this state of mind, are sometimes tempted and troubled in relation to it. They are not entirely confident, that such a state of constant rejoicing is consistent with a due sense of the woes and sins of men, and with those feelings of sympathy and mourning, which the condition of things around us is calculated to excite.

3.—We remark, in the first place, and as calculated in some degree to meet this difficulty, that rejoicing in the Lord is a
scriptural state of mind. This would be a natural and obvious view of the subject, independently of the express declarations of Scripture. God is good as he is wise; and with all the wisdom and power which are requisite, he also has a disposition to do, at all times and in all things, that which is for the best. Both in himself and in all the modes and acts of his administration, he is infinitely just, merciful, and lovely. Praise, therefore, or what is the same thing, a reverential, heartfelt rejoicing in Him, belongs to Him of right. And it belongs to Him at all times. If we had no express command to render it, we could not rightly withhold it. And besides this, the illustrations of rejoicing in the Lord, and the commands to rejoice in him, which are found in the Scriptures, are very numerous. “Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous.” “Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”

4.—We would observe, in the second place, that the state of mind, upon which we are remarking, is not merely JOY, which may arise from various causes, and not always with profitable results, but
joy or rejoicing in the Lord. This is an important distinction. It is not joy in ourselves, but joy in the Lord, of which we are speaking. It is God, in himself and in his various manifestations, who calls forth, without ceasing, this happy song of inward jubilation. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” And this is so strictly true, that the soul, when it is in this state, finds it difficult to turn itself away from God, by means of reflections on itself and its own happiness, or by directing itself to any other creature, except as God leads it there. God, the infinite mind, the all wise and beneficent creator and sustainer, is the one present and delightful object, which unites all its thoughts and absorbs all its affections.

5.—We observe again, that rejoicing in the Lord, or praise, is
not at variance with prayer. On the contrary, we may regard it as one of the highest forms of prayer; especially if we employ the term prayer, as is sometimes done, as a general name for all truly religious exercises. A portion of the Lord’s prayer is expressive of the union of the human with the divine will. “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” No one will doubt, that the supplication, “thy will be done,” when it is sincerely offered, is to be regarded as true prayer, whether we use the term in a broader or a more limited signification. Indeed, it is a prayer, which embraces all other prayer. When we pray for God’s will to be accomplished, we pray for every thing which we ought to pray for. But we can have no hesitancy in asserting, that the purifying and ennobling feeling, expressed in this supplication, which casts out self, and makes us one with God, is the basis of all true rejoicing in the Lord. A person may rejoice in himself, or may be happy in himself, in various ways and for various reasons; but no one can rejoice in the Lord, who cannot sincerely and rejoicingly say, at the same time, “THY WILL BE DONE.”

6.—Rejoicing in the Lord, as we have just had occasion to say, always involves the prayer, “thy will be done.” But it involves more; and this additional part makes the difference between rejoicing in the Lord, and mere acquiescence in the will of the Lord. It involves a conviction, deep, heartfelt, and unchangeable, that the will of God,
with the exception of any thing and every thing which is sinful, is now accomplished; that every moment brings with it the fulfillment of all things up to that moment; and that God is now, and will be for ever glorified in every thing that takes place.

7.—And it is at this point that we discover the
relation, which faith in the Lord holds to rejoicing in the Lord. Reason tells us, that God’s will, with the exception which has already been named, is accomplished in every thing which takes place. The opposite view would be inconsistent with God’s supremacy. But reason, while it declares the thing, does not so clearly declare the righteousness of the thing. It establishes the mind in a fixed position, without relieving it from inward perplexity. But faith, reaching forth from the things which take place, to the multiplied relations which bind them to all other facts and things, which ever have taken place or ever will take place, to time past and time to come, to the law of God and its rewards and penalties, to God as love and God as justice, to heaven and hell, brings home to the mind the deep and irreversible conviction, that the will of God, which is accomplished moment by moment, is accomplished in RIGHTEOUSNESS; and that it is, and ever will be, the occasion of holy rejoicing. Faith in the Lord, therefore, which connects the known with the unknown, is the true foundation of rejoicing in the Lord. Faith concentres eternity in each moment as it passes, and regarding God in every event of that moment, pronounces him RIGHTEOUS. Even sin, which God can never approve, and which can never be said, in any proper sense of the terms, to be in accordance with his will, will be so overruled in his infinite wisdom, will be so atoned for, through his infinite mercy, in the case of all those who repent, that the thing, which is most deformed and hideous of all things in itself, will be made to subserve the glory of God. Every where will it exhibit the inscription on its troubled and burning surface, an inscription which heaven and hell shall alike see, “The Lord is holy;” “The Lord is glorious in holiness.”

8.—Take down, then, your harps from the willows. Rejoice in spirit, all who have taken the Lord for their portion. Amid all your sorrows, temptations, and trials, amid all the sins and the anguish of our fallen world, praise the Lord. Let the praise of the Lord be continually in your mouth. Think not that you must cease to praise in order to pray. Pray, but praise also. In a very important sense, PRAISE IS PRAYER. Praise is the highest prayer. Praise is the prayer of angels.