These things have I spoken unto you,
that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." —St. John xv. ii. Jesus is the Man of Sorrows ; the title is for ever His, like His Crown of Thorns. It expresses Him truly as the One who^has borne the whole immense burden of sinning, suffering humanity. But it does not fully, nor even fundamentally, express Him. Instinctively we would shrink from describ ing Jesus as an unhappy person, as one who at any moment, or in any circumstance, existed miserably. Instinctively we feel that the ground-tone of His life, latent in its harshest discords, is joy. And as we think of what His mission was, of what He pur posed and claimed to effect, we see that it could not be otherwise. No pessimist could be a saviour. "Such as we have give we unto thee." Unhappiness can never beget happiness, nor sickness health. Only he can " strengthen the wavering line," in whom joy is a force infectious and con quering, ringing in his voice, gleaming in his eyes. So was it that Jesus came. He came with glad tidings, came as the Divine Physician into the world's vast hospital. His words are beatitudes. He lifts up His hands in benediction. The blessings of the Divine Kingdom He was bringing to men He could compare to nothing so much as to the festive joys of marriage (St. Mark ii. 19). Himself and His disciples were like a wed ding-party. He was the bridegroom whose joy overflows into the hearts of his friends, and turns fasting into , feasting. Even at the last, on the verge of Gethsemane and in sight of Calvary, He speaks not of His sorrows, but still of His joy. He is the Lord of joy, and His crowning desire for His servants is that they may enter into the joy of their Lord and have it fulfilled in them.
Yet Jesus is the Man of Sorrows ; and it is because He is the Man of Sorrows that His joy is so precious a legacy, so strong an anchor to our souls. He is no " sky-blue " optimist. This Man of Joy has dwelt in the heart of blackest night. He has seen hell, here on earth, in men's hearts, flaming in their eyes, triumphing in their deeds. Yet His joy is unconquered. No one has ever sounded the depths of reality, has ever penetrated to the ultimate core of life, as Jesus did ; and what He finds there is not an abyss of evil, but an infinite of good. I desire then to speak of the joy of Jesus— of His joy rather than of His joys. There are joys which are transfigured sorrows, like the rainbow, which shines in the very sub stance of the lowering cloud. But the rain bow is the child of the sun. And I want to speak of that unfailing cause of joy which for Jesus transcended all causes of sorrow, which made the sunshine of His life, and which alone can make the sunshine of ours.
i. The Joy of Trust. Now all deep, lasting joy must be rooted in faith, in our conviction regarding reality —the eternal reality that lies within and beyond the outward show that passes before our eyes moment by moment. What does life mean ? What lies at the heart of it ? Stevenson used to say in his half-humorous way that he had a tremendous belief in the "ultimate decency of things." And a biographer, speaking of the gaiety of John Wesley, says that it was such as could be seen only in one " who felt his religion to rest upon the whole nature of things, and who was at rest in his religion." And of this joyous faith, this firm confidence in an ultimate Tightness and goodness in the whole nature of things, Jesus Christ is for ever the Author and Perfecter. In better words, He had absolute, invincible faith in God ; and this was the root of His joy. " This is life eternal," "He said, " to know Thee, the only true God." We seldom realize, and never adequately, what a stupendous thing it is just to believe in God, in a God who is really God, whose presence, thought, and power permeate all existence, whose eternal purpose disposes all events, overrules all wills, shapes all destinies. Such belief, if sincere and vital, must colour all life. God must be its strength and joy, or its terror and despair. And Jesus Christ believed in such a God as no other has believed. To no other has God been a reality at once so universal and so immediately near. He believed in God, not occasionally as we do, but all the time ; not in the last resort, but as the first and last and supreme factor in every situation ; not in the hours of crisis alone, on the mountain-top, but on the homely plain, in the daily, hourly process of events. God was the light in which He saw, the atmo sphere He breathed.
And to Jesus this was joy, perfect and ineffable; because God was to Him not only the Supreme Potentate—the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent; He was all this, but He was the Father, who is Love and has bound Himself to us in our weakness, our ignorance, and even in our sinfulness, by ties that cannot be broken ; who, because He is what He is, must care, must provide, must pardon, guide, deliver from evil, and carry us safely to the goal of eternal life. To conceive the joy of Jesus, we should have to know the Father as Jesus knew Him, to feel the emotion with which He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said "Father," to have His entrancing vision of the Father's infinite goodness, His adoring vision of His glory, His glowing trust in His work of redeeming love, that responsiveness to all the Father is and wills of which all we can say is that it is to God what perfect sonship is to perfect fatherhood. That joy is reflected in the Gospels exactly as itmust have been ordi narily present in His life. He does not pause in His work to speak of His joy. It does not so much appear in bursts of sudden splendour as it is the light that shines in the face of common day and colours all the landscape. Yet what itmust have been to hear Jesus say, " Have faith in God," to see His face glow with an inner joy, and to hear the ring of gladness in His voice, when He spoke of doing the Father's will and finishing His work ! Joy in the absolute, all-embracing goodness, wisdom, and sovereign power of the Father, joy in imparting this joy to others—this was the joy of Jesus.
And it cannot be gainsaid that such trust in God is the only basis for joy that can sustain the burden of rational, thinking men. We are dependent beings. Our life is brief, and against the force of circumstances com paratively powerless —in the end wholly so. Only this pin-point of a present on which we stand is ours. To-morrow we cannot see ; we know only that every to-morrow is a step nearer to the end of all things of which we seem to be a part. There is a Power, conceive it as we may, which holds us in the" hollow of its hand, by which We are carried along "like flakes of foam upon a swollen Can we trust that Power, or can we not ? Get to the centre of things, and there is no question to ask and to answer, if we can, but this—Can we trust, joyfully trust, that Power ? And when men to-day urge strong and plausible reasons why we cannot, and tell us that the world of facts is soulless and conscienceless, a world of blind, relentless forces bearing no trace of Divine origin or purpose ; and when we can see for ourselves so much that seems to bear this out, when we face the inexplicable inequalities of life, the long misery and degradation of the world, the gaping wounds of nature and humanity, let us remember that Jesus Christ saw all we see, and more ; that for none has this world ever worn so godless a look as for Him who died by the unparalleled iniquity of the Cross, with the hideous taunt in His ears, " He trusted in God that He would de liver Him." He knew the absolute worst, and for a moment even He was almost over whelmed. The world, with all its. mustered forces of evil, was on one side ; the solitary faith of the crucified Man on the other ; but in that decisive conflict Faith won the day. It was decisive. Though the fight goes on still and will never cease while the world stands, the battle has been won. Jesus calls men, and not in vain, to repeat His victory.
To this He calls not alone by His example, but by the revelation of God which He has brought, or, to speak more truly, which He is. You and I are not Jesus Christ. There is a sense in which we cannot have His faith, His vision of God. His original, direct, sure gaze into the heart of the Divine Fatherhood. But He not only tells us what He has seen there,—nay, He could not do that ; the vision was not given in words and cannot be communicated in words,—He holds Himself up as the living mirror in which we too may gaze upon it. " He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." The character of Jesus is the character of Almighty God, the holiness of Jesus the holiness of God, the wrath of Jesus the wrath of God, the compaasion of Jesus the compassion of God, the Cross of Jesus the revelation of the sorrow and self-sacrificing love with which the sin of man fills the heart of the Eternal.
This is the Christian faith. And is it not a joyous faith ? Is it not joy deeper than all sorrow to know that He who holds the helm of my life, who holds the helm of the great universe, is One whose character is the character of Jesus ? This includes everything. Such a God claims from us absolute trust. We cannot trust Him at one point and not trust Him at every other point. We cannot trust Him for ourselves and not for every other being ; for to-morrow and not for all eternity. Jesus is the Image of the Invisible God, the Son of His Love. God is what Jesus is. That excludes all fear that ultimate victory can anywhere rest with evil, forbids all acquiescence in imperfection, assures us that every purpose of righteous ness and love shall reach its goal. Ifthis faith is ours, our religion is a religion that rests upon the whole nature of things, one in which we can rest ; and it ought to fill our lives with joy, much more than it does. Though clouds and darkness may trouble the circumference of life, at the centre is that Eternal Light the radiance of which beheld is joy and strength.