There be many that say, Who will show us any good? LORD, lift you up the light of your countenance on us.
It may be asked whether the truth of Christianity necessarily follows from its joy-giving power. Such a proof is only a part of the cumulative evidence whereupon Christianity is built. There is a further and more serious objection. Arc you not, by showing that religion promotes joy, appealing to motives of abject fear and personal profit? Morality, not pleasure, should be the true end of religion. But it is just because Christianity has holiness for its object that it is able to promise the happiness which holiness involves. It does indeed appeal to hope and fear; but the fear and the hope which it invokes are not selfish; not, certainly, in that invidious sense which implies the wrong or the neglect of others. Nor can it be said for a moment that the Christian's fear or joy ignores the claims of morality. Why, the very conviction of sin upon which such a fear is based recognises the breach of a moral law. That same fear becomes ennobled in its onward course, being daily transfigured from the dread of offending a righteous, judge into the filial fear of offending a loving Father. And as with the Christian's fear, so with his joy and his hope. Even in its beginning, it involves a recognition of moral law, and it daily tends to further holiness. Both the Christian's fear and joy are essentially moral in their character. But it may be asked — Is this joy really attainable? and if attainable, is it of any value? "Is life worth living?" Christless pessimism is a natural oscillation from a Christless optimism: in other words, to look for true joy in the heart, the home, or society, except as the outcome of true religion, is to build up hopes that can only end in despair. What has Christianity to offer in the place of Christless optimism? What are the virtues and the accompanying joys to which it invites us? It would be untrue to assert that morality and happiness cannot exist in any degree apart from Christianity. And we must not assume that Christianity has promised to bring about, in this dispensation at least, universal goodness, or universal happiness. Let us not look for more than has been promised. Take
1. The heart joys of the individual Christian. Christianity intensifies the joys that are common to all; there are some joys that are peculiarly her own. Such as, the power to dispel those foul vapours which, as our Lord tells us, come naturally from within, and which are necessarily destructive of all inward joy. True religion also offers the joy of pardon. But the heart joy of the Christian does not end with pardon. There is the still greater and holier joy which he feels in the consciousness of being an object of love and care to a heavenly Father, a sympathising Saviour, an abiding Comforter.
2. The home joys of the Christian. In the eyes of the Christian the very idea of home has a holy and Divine meaning that reaches far beyond its earthly significance. He has before his eyes the revelation of an Eternal Father and a Divine Son. True religion enjoins, with a terrible earnestness, those sacred obligations on the observance of which the happiness of home depends; and true religion provides a further home joy in its truth of resurrection.
3. The society joys of the Christian. True religion tends to promote joy in society. The chief source of happiness in a community is liberty, and a chief friend of liberty is true religion. What are the features which give special peace and happiness to the social circle? Are they not courtesy and unselfishness? Are not these Christian virtues? In conclusion, face this question. If Christianity be a failure, what do you propose to put in its place?
(Archbishop Plunker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.