PART I. ON THE INWARD LIFE IN ITS CONNECTION WITH FAITH AND LOVE.
On the distinction between natural and spiritual Joy.
We have endeavored in the preceding chapter to point out the distinction between love and joy; a distinction, not very obvious at first sight, but which really exists and is important to be made. But it is proper to add here, that the views of the chapter may be somewhat aided, and perhaps modified in their practical applications, in connection with a distinction, which yet remains to be made, and which may very properly be made, between NATURAL joy and SPIRITUAL joy. It is true, that gracious or spiritual joy is not to be confounded with Love, any more than natural joy is. In both, cases, the distinction between love and joy is a real and permanent one. But then there remains the additional view, which will help to throw further light upon the subject before us, that gracious or holy joy divers, in some of its aspects, from natural joy.
We proceed, then, to remark, in the first place, that natural joy and spiritual joy are different in their origin. Natural joy, which is sometimes denominated "the joy of the world," arises from natural causes; from physical or worldly good; from health, property, worldly influence, the indulgences of sense; from such causes, in a word, as we might suppose to exist and to produce joy within us, if we had no perception of a God and no knowledge of religion. Spiritual or gracious joy, which is spiritual or gracious in its origin, arises from the knowledge of spiritual objects, from the discharge of spiritual or religious duties, and from the inspiring agency of the Holy Ghost. And hence it is sometimes denominated the "joy of the Holy Ghost."
(2.) — Again, natural joy, arising from natural principles, and unchecked and unregulated by gracious influences, has oftentimes a very powerful effect upon the physical system. And it is possible and even probable, that this may sometimes be the case with true spiritual or gracious joy; especially when the emotion is strong and immediately successive to a painfully depressed and suffering state of mind. And it is not unreasonable to suppose, that, in some cases, when powerful physical results are found to exist, that there may be a union or combination of natural and gracious emotion. But it is nevertheless true, that the natural tendency of spiritual joy, IN ITSELF CONSIDERED, and independently of any peculiar circumstances, is, in a remarkable degree, and much more so than that of mere natural joy, to produce a tranquilizing effect upon the mind and through the mind upon the physical system, and to promote soundness and regularity of action in both.
(3.) We observe, in the third place, that there is a tendency in natural joy, especially when it is strong, to perplex the action of the perceptive and discriminating or judging powers. This is true of the natural emotions generally, when they are in an excited state. Any considerable agitation in that portion of our sensitive nature which is termed the Emotions, is commonly understood to be unfavorable to correct perception and judgment. A man, for instance, who is agitated with emotions of displeasure, of jealousy, or of fear, will find it difficult, while remaining, in such state of agitation, to go through successfully with an intricate train of mathematical or other reasoning. And the result will be the same, if he is considerably agitated with emotions of natural pleasure or joy. But true spiritual joy, when undisturbed by unfavorable influences from the physical system and unmixed with natural joy, leaves the mind tranquil, and the perceptive and discriminating faculties clear and effective in the highest degree. And these views seem to be confirmed by a consideration of the state of holy beings. All holy beings, there can be no doubt, experience true joy of heart; but in our reflections on their mental character and operations, it is certain, that we never conceive of them as having their minds clouded and their perceptive powers blunted by excessive emotion. The natural feelings, which are regulated with difficulty, continually run into excess; but this is never the case with those truly religious or gracious feelings, which are really inspired by the Holy Ghost. And, therefore, when it said of the disciples on a certain occasion, (Luke 24: 41,) that they "believed not for JOY, it is probable, that they experienced an excitement and confusion of mind, resulting from a mixture of natural joy with emotions of an holy kind.
(4.) — It remains to be remarked further, that natural joy is often attended with certain incidental evils, which are not likely to exist in connection with gracious or holy joy; such as an undue hilarity of spirit, a sort of unreflecting and too youthful levity and flightiness of thought and manner, unsuitable to our age or our situation in life; what George Fox, in speaking of some Christians in his day, expressively describes, as "BEING UP IN THE AIRY MIND. On the other hand, holy joy, when it is free from any mixture and perversion of natural joy, is deliberately and deeply serious. When natural joy is superadded or is superinduced upon a truly spiritual or gracious experience, and gives a character to our actions, it is possible, that there may be sometimes results bordering upon those airy and flighty manifestations, which have been mentioned; but whenever this is the case, it is certain, that these results do not flow from any state of mind, which is truly the work of the Holy Spirit. Religious or sanctified joy, always bearing the stamp of deliberation and wisdom, always in keeping with that seriousness which naturally flows out of the truths and the responsibilities of religion, is entirely suited to the objects and occasions, on which it arises; so as to leave in the mind both the appearance and the fact of perfect tranquillity; such as there is in God himself, who may be said to be always happy, always joyful, and yet to be always serious and unalterably tranquil. This joy seems to me to be often expressed in the Scriptures by the word PEACE; and is probably the precise state of mind, the delightful legacy of all true Christians, which the Savior had in view, when he said to his disciples, " PEACE I leave with you; MY peace I give unto you." Such a joy may be strong. In the language of Scripture, it may be "unspeakable and full of glory." But it is always calm and peaceful; and in this respect is entirely different from that excited and unprofitable intoxication of spirit, which is sometimes found to be experienced, and which so possesses and agitates the mind, that the will of God and our duty cannot be clearly perceived.
Finally, holy joy, being founded in the perception of the character, attributes, and will of God, is not necessarily liable to changes. He, who rejoices in God to-day, having a correct view of his character and will, will never find good reason to do otherwise than rejoice in that character and will, in all coming time. And simply because God, in his character and his will, is always the same. In all afflictions and trials of whatever nature, there will still remain the basis of a serene and pure joy in the depths of the heart. But natural joy, being founded upon natural objects, which are frail, uncertain, and full of imperfection, necessarily partakes of the uncertainty and imperfect nature of its causes. And hence it is said in the portion of Scripture already referred to. "They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with JOY, [that is, with natural joy, as we are probably to understand it.] And these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation, fall away." So that holy or spiritual joy may be compared to the sun, which always shines with its pure and beautiful light, even when wrapped in clouds; but natural joy is like a meteor, gleaming for a moment and then extinguished; rekindled again after a time, but destined soon and suddenly to sink in still greater darkness.
In connection with the marks, which thus separate natural from spiritual joy, we observe, in conclusion, that spiritual joy, being a truly Christian grace, is exceedingly valuable and desirable. And truly blessed is he, who possesses that state of mind, which is properly called "joy in the Holy Ghost." It is true it is a grace, both subsequent in time and inferior in rank to Love, which ought to be sought first as the reigning and controlling principle of the soul. But, it is, nevertheless, in its appropriate time and place, one of the precious gifts and graces of God. And hence the various expressions and commands, having a relation to this cheering state of mind, which are found in the Bible. "REJOICE in the Lord, O ye righteous; for praise is comely for the upright." Ps. 33:1. " But REJOICE, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." First Peter, 4:13. "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." John, 15:11. " Rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing; in every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1st Thess. 5: 16, 17, 18.
Illustration of the subject from personal experience.
[In the following extract from the personal experience of a pious person of the Baptist church, now no longer living, the reader will notice an exemplification of that tendency to seek for joyous emotion, which is so common and oftentimes so injurious.]
"I trust I was enabled deliberately, not only in view of sickness and death, but of life and health, to make an unreserved consecration of my all to Christ, and to feel that in whatever situation I might be, holiness to the Lord must henceforth be my motto. I could now yield myself a willing subject to the sanctifying grace of God, believing he would work in me according to the good pleasure of his will. Soon a heavenly calm possessed my mind, a sense of the divine glory surrounded me, and my whole soul seemed in sweet harmony with the holiness of God. There were no rapturous emotions, but I felt
"The sacred awe that dares not move,
And all the silent heaven of love."
How easy now seemed the divine requirement, to love Him with all the heart, and my neighbor as myself. I felt a peculiar tenderness of conscience, and feared nothing but to offend my Savior. Being still feeble in body, I could not endure strong mental exercises and as the change in my feelings was not sudden or characterized by strong emotions, I was soon tempted to doubt whether it was really what I had been seeking for. I prayed earnestly for a FULLNESS OF JOY and an undoubted evidence, but the more I sought for this, the less my evidence appeared, until I was willing to leave all with God, to give either a crumb, or a full meal. My peace then returned, and blessed be God, it has continued like a river to flow broader and deeper to the present time.
Never before did I feel so much my entire dependence on all sufficient grace, and such a confidence that it would be given in every time of need. Like a little child I have looked into the Bible for instruction, and O what an inexpressible glory has beamed therefrom! A new blessedness has appeared while receiving Christ as a Savior from all sin, a present Savior, a full Savior. How glorious the consideration to one, who has all her life in some degree been subject to bondage! Truly I can now say the Holy Spirit has led me into the truth, and the truth has made me free. I no longer feel like a wanderer, but like a child at home. My weary soul now rests in Christ, and finds "his yoke easy, and his burden light." With entire confidence can I now commit all my interests, temporal and spiritual, into his hands, and feel that they are safe. My greatest desire is to know and do the will of my Heavenly Father, and to possess all the mind of Christ. I feel deeply interested in the progress of holiness. With all my heart can I bid God-speed to those, who are engaged in promoting this blessed cause." [Guide to Christian Perfection, Vol III, p. 39.]