THE SCRIPTURES AND JOY
The ungodly are ever seeking after joy, but they do not find it: they busy and weary themselves in the pursuit of it, yet all in vain. Their hearts being turned from the Lord, they look downward for joy, where it is not; rejecting the substance, they diligently run after the shadow, only to be mocked by it. It is the sovereign decree of heaven that nothing can make sinners truly happy but God in Christ; but this they will not believe, and therefore they go from creature to creature, from one broken cistern to another, inquiring where the best joy is to be found. Each worldly thing which attracts them says, It is found in me; but soon it disappoints. Nevertheless, they go on seeking it afresh today in the very thing which deceived them yesterday. If after many trials they discover the emptiness of one creature comfort, then they turn to another, only to verify our Lord’s word, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again" (John 4:13).
Going now to the other extreme: there are some Christians who suppose it to be sinful to rejoice. No doubt many of our readers will be surprised to hear this but let them be thankful they have been brought up in sunnier surroundings, and bear with us while we labour with those less favored. Some have been taught—largely by implication and example, rather than by plain inculcation—that it is their duty to be gloomy. They imagine that feelings of joy are produced by the Devil appearing as an angel of light. They conclude that it is well-nigh a species of wickedness to be happy in such a world of sin as we are in. They think it presumptuous to rejoice in the knowledge of sins forgiven, and if they see young Christians so doing they tell them it will not be long before they are floundering in the Slough of Despond. To all such we tenderly urge the prayerful pondering of the remainder of this chapter.
"Rejoice evermore" (1 Thess. 5:16). It surely cannot be unsafe to do what God has commanded us. The Lord has placed no embargo on rejoicing. No, it is Satan who strives to make us hang up our harps. There is no precept in Scripture bidding us "Grieve in the Lord alway: and again I say, Grieve"; but there is an exhortation which bids us, "Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright" (Ps. 33:1). Reader, if you are a real Christian (and it is high time you tested yourself by Scripture and made sure of this point), then Christ is yours, all that is in Him is yours. He bids you "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved" (Song of Sol. 5:1): the only sin you may commit against His banquet of love is to stint yourself. "Let your soul delight itself in fatness"(Isa. 55:2) is spoken not to those already in heaven but to saints still on earth.