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Joy and Power
by [?]

Christians are not as much calmer, steadier, stronger, and more cheerful than other people as they ought to be. Some Christians are among the most depressing and worryful people in the world,–the most difficult to live with. And some, indeed, have adopted a theory of spiritual ethics which puts a special value upon unhappiness. The dark, morbid spirit which mistrusts every joyful feeling, and depreciates every cheerful virtue, and looks askance upon every happy life as if there must be something wrong about it, is a departure from the beauty of Christ’s teaching to follow the dark-browed philosophy of the Orient.

The religion of Jesus tells us that cheerful piety is the best piety. There is something finer than to do right against inclination; and that is to have an inclination to do right. There is something nobler than reluctant obedience; and that is joyful obedience. The rank of virtue is not measured by its disagreeableness, but by its sweetness to the heart that loves it. The real test of character is joy. For what you rejoice in, that you love. And what you love, that you are like.

I confess frankly that I have no admiration for the phrase “disinterested benevolence,” to describe the main-spring of Christian morals. I do not find it in the New Testament: neither the words, nor the thing. Interested benevolence is what I find there. To do good to others is to make life interesting and find peace for our own souls. To glorify God is to enjoy Him. That was the spirit of the first Christians. Was not St. Paul a happier man than Herod? Did not St. Peter have more joy of his life than Nero? It is said of the first disciples that they “did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” Not till that pristine gladness of life returns will the Church regain her early charm for the souls of men. Every great revival of Christian power–like those which came in the times of St. Francis of Assisi and of John Wesley–has been marked and heralded by a revival of Christian joy.

If we want the Church to be mighty in power to win men, to be a source of light in the darkness, a fountain of life in the wilderness, we must remember and renew, in the spirit of Christ, the relation of religion to human happiness.

II. What, then, are the conditions upon which true happiness depends? Christ tells us in the text: If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

This is the blessing with a double if. “If ye know,”–this is the knowledge which Christ gives to faith. “If ye do,”–this is the obedience which faith gives to Christ. Knowing and Doing,–these are the twin pillars, Jachin and Boaz, on which the house of happiness is built. The harmony of faith and life,–this is the secret of inward joy and power.

You remember when these words were spoken. Christ had knelt to wash the disciples’ feet. Peter, in penitence and self-reproach, had hesitated to permit this lowly service of Divine love. But Christ answered by revealing the meaning of His act as a symbol of the cleansing of the soul from sin. He reminded the disciples of what they knew by faith,–that He was their Saviour and their Lord. By deed and by word He called up before them the great spiritual truths which had given new meaning to their life. He summoned them to live according to their knowledge, to act upon the truth which they believed.

I am sure that His words sweep out beyond that quiet upper room, beyond that beautiful incident, to embrace the whole spiritual life. I am sure that He is revealing to us the secret of happy living which lies at the very heart of His gospel, when He says: If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.