1 Peter 1:8, 9
Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:…
There are better things than joy. A life framed on purpose to secure it is contemptible, anti foredoomed to failure. Like sleep, it comes most surely unsought, and that angel of God meets us as we travel on the way of duty. It is not a worthy motive to urge for loving Jesus Christ that we shall be happy if we do, and much harm has been done by preaching a kind of gospel which winged its exhortations mainly with such calculations. But, on the other hand, it would be overstrained to take no account of the fact that joy follows faith in Christ as surely as fragrance is breathed from opened flowers. A pure and sober-suited gladness is one of the "virgins following" that queen. If it were not so, if there were no connection between goodness and happiness, there would arise a far greater difficulty in vindicating the ways of God than comes from the apparent absence of connection between goodness and prosperity. The strong words of this text assert that connection in the broadest way.
I. THE DEPTH AND HEIGHT OF CHRISTIAN JOY. It is a melancholy testimony to the meager and shallow nature of the ordinary type of Christian life, that, in defiance of plain grammar, the words here have been often taken to refer to the future. They have been felt to be a world too wide for the experience of most of us. They speak of an exuberant joy which might be called a jubilant leaping up of the heart, of a joy far to(, great to be shut up in the bounds of speech and which has been glorified, transfigured, as if already clothed upon with the light of heaven. No wonder that men whose highest experience of Christian gladness fell far below this, should escape from the questions which the contrast suggests by throwing this joy into the future. But it is clearly meant to be realized in the present. Such joy is possible, and, if it be not actual in us, we should be wiser to look for the reason than to wrap ourselves in the comfortable excuse that it was never meant to be ours here.
1. The true joy is silent. It is but a shallow heart that can tell its treasures. "He is a poor man who can count his flock," says a proverb. All deep emotions pass beyond speech. The deepest love can but "love and be silent." The great river slides along with equable and noiseless motion, while the brook chatters among its pebbles. The Christian joy is not in need of laughter, nor of words, nor of any outward signs. Mirth is noisy; deep joy is calm, gave, still. It sits at the Master's feet, and moves not in its deep restfulness; only the light in the eyes and the holy glow on the still face tell the depth of the blessedness. Earth's joys are the crackling of thorns; Christian joy burns steadily.
2. It is "glorified." It already partakes of the glory which is to be revealed, and thereby is elevated and transfigured. Joy may easily become frivolous. Most of our earthly joys are but light-winged and painted butterflies in summer skies. But the emotion may be heightened and ennobled and changed from the short-lived flutterer among flowers to a strong-pinioned son of light, gazing on and rising to God. Instead of the iridescent bubble that bursts at a touch, it may become solid and permanent. Touched by the glory of that on which it is nourished, joy is glorified, even as, infected by the foulness of that on which it gorges, it may be debased. As is its object, so is it - varying from dignity to degradation. A man may have his face flushed with wine, or may turn to gaze on the sun, and be irradiated by the light to which he looks, as Stephen's face glowed like an angel's from the reflected light of the open heavens. Is our joy lofty and touched with Heaven's own light, the common emotion being transfigured into likeness to the lofty hopes and visions on which it is nourished?
II. THE UNFALLING FOUNTAINS OF THE CHRISTIAN JOY. Two conditions are set forth in the two participial clauses on which our true joy depends. Of the two the former brings about the latter. Believing in, or rather trusting to, the unseen Christ, we receive the consequence of that trust - the salvation of our souls. And the exercise of faith and the possession of the resulting salvation pour a flood of joy into the heart, even though it dwell in a waterless land.
1. The exercise of faith in the unseen Christ brings joy. The very attitude of trust breathes calm gladness over the heart. It is always blessed to lean on one whom we love. There is rest in casting the burden on another. Anxiety and care darken the face and sadden the soul, when we have none but ourselves to rely on. But trust, even in human helpers whom we can trust, makes us glad, as a child safe on its mother's breast, or a wife guarded by her husband's arms. The more permanent and sufficient the object of our trust, the more joyful we shall be. If Christ be our Trust, we rely on absolute perfection and permanence and power; so our joy may be full, and may abide. To occupy mind and heart with him is joy. A warm thrill of gladness fills loving souls parted from one another, as they think of each other. And a bright light of joy should be kindled at every remembrance of Christ, and will be if we are trusting to him. Faith is self-distrust, and that is joy. Faith is self-surrender, and that is joy. Faith is the yielding of the will, and that is joy. Faith is the consciousness of union with Divine love and power, and that is joy. Faith turns its back on earth's fever and falseness, and that is joy. Faith rises to walk in heavenly places, and that is joy. Faith unites the soul with Jesus, and that is joy. The Christian joy is cotemporaneous with active exercise of our faith. If that falls asleep, it fades away. It is like the note of a piano, which ceases to sound as soon as the finger is lifted from the key. Therefore is Christian joy so seldom up to the ideal set forth here, because faith is so spasmodic, so intermittent, and so feeble. If we would "rejoice evermore," we must "trust in the Lord forever."
2. The salvation which is the consequence of faith brings joy. The language clearly co-ordinates "believing" and "receiving" as cotemporaneous. Both are regarded as continuous, not single acts, done and done with, but as the standing characteristics of the Christian life. If continuous, they will be progressive; faith will become stronger, and, as it grows, salvation will be more fully possessed. For faith is receptivity, the opening of the door, and its degree, the width of the opening, settles how much "salvation" will enter. Salvation is past, present, and future - and in all epochs one in essence, however various in degree and form. Here and now we may possess the beginning "of the end of our faith," even the salvation of our souls, though the full salvation of body, soul, and spirit has to be waited for till the coming of the Lord. Surely that present salvation may well put into our hands a full cup of gladness. The consciousness of forgiveness; the sense of friendship with Christ; the assurance that all the sky is clear, and nowhere in the universe of things present or to come any cloud that can ever break in storm on our heads; the growing possession of holy desires, pure thoughts, and Christ-like character; the refining of the nature; and the hopes full of immortality which spring from present communion with him, and conquer death, and pour a great light of peacefulness into the grave; - surely these precious pearls, melted in the draught which the hand of faith receives from Christ, may well make sad hearts forget their misery, and rejoice as they drink, "with joy unspeakable and full of glory." - A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: