How Joy Comes

John 15:11.---' These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.'

Man is ever a lover of joy; he feels he is made for it; he is distressed when he misses it or is robbed of it. He looks his best when he is inspired by it, and does his best when he is filled with it. It is unnatural for him to be without it, and he soon loses gaiety, health, and wisdom if he cannot recover it. God, then, must give him joy. And yet it must be confessed that though nearly all men are happy at times, there are not many whom we should call joyful. What is it that hinders? On what does joy really depend?

LOVE.---Joy depends on love, the sense of being loved and trusted by the best. Human love is an immense help, inspiring self-respect, and often stimulating as well as comforting. Yet it constantly fails in chasing away the gloom with which death, separation, solitude, sickness, and anxiety inspire us.

But where human love fails Divine love succeeds. Christ's love is as personal as that of the lover, as watchful as that of the mother, as constant as that of the friend; and besides all this has the strength, the wisdom, and the greatness of God. It is big enough to take in the whole human race, and individual enough to weep at the grave of Lazarus. It necessarily gives joy where it is received, and sometimes of such a tumultuous character that heart and mind are strained in their efforts to respond. "I prayed to God," says Francis Xavier, "to restrain the overflowing fullness of joy which constantly fills my soul." With this the disciples were familiar. He had been everything to them. His attention to their personal needs---'Lacked ye anything?'---His care in instructing them, His watchfulness over their moods, His joy in hearing what they had to say, made them see how He cared for them. Sometimes they would be daring enough to imagine that He loved them. That He was the Vine and they were the branches was not so difficult for them as for us, for they owed everything to Him---food and clothing for the body, and power for the spirit.

But this was not all. It was going far beyond the bounds of what we may call family affection when He said: 'Abide in me, and I in you.' No human being had ever expressed himself like that. It would have been natural for them to have said, Master, stay with us, and let us stay with Thee, as St Peter said on the night of the Transfiguration. But it is He, their Master, who urges them to stay in Him and let Him stay in them. He it is who presses on them this natural affection and points to the miserable failure that any interruption of their friendship would mean to them. He it is who urges all the advantages to character and to the honor of His Father which their continuance with Him would mean. With some, such tender, unreserved pleading would lead to the supposition that they were absolutely necessary to His plans, that He couldn't do without them; but these, except Judas, had so much benefited by His discipline and instruction that the words left them wondering at the graciousness of His condescension, and filled them with an extraordinary joy that He had ever thought them worthy of such deep regard.

Now, if we can receive it, such teaching will do the same for us. We start in the same way as the disciples; they did not choose Him, nor have we. He chose them, and He also chose us. The words, then, of His teaching are as relevant to us as to them. The appeal is just the same---'Abide in me, and I in you.' But they do not grip now as they did then. We have not so sufficiently understood our life as to find, as they did, tokens of regard on every hand, signs, ministries, teachings unmistakable. We have had our communions, or hours of abiding, precious moments which we have left when it was over, and consequently, beyond the vague sense that He loves everyone and therefore us, we are uncertain.

We must therefore get back to our Lord's own words: 'I am the vine, ye are the branches.' The very fact that dry, unfruitful branches are included and specially referred to ought to assure us that our inclusion in the Vine is not due to merit. We are there; we know not why, and we must believe it. And all that belongs to the Vine---its beauty, its fruitfulness, the joy it gives to the husbandman---is ours. We belong to the family of God---and are heirs to all the promises. And beyond that, inexplicable as it may seem to be, we are the objects of the love of the greatest, wisest, and purest---the Son of Man.

We have, then, the unshakable conviction that, dull as we are to the world, we are very interesting to Him; misunderstood as we are by most people, we are always understood by Him; that, indifferent as we know our acquaintances to be to our trials and difficulties, they are always matters of concern to Him. To be sure of this is and must be an amazing joy. Our Lord tells us to start with this knowledge and then 'abide in it,' never let it go.

G. K. Chesterton, in His Life of St Fransis, says: "What gave him his extraordinary personal power was this: that from Pope to the beggar, from the Sultan of Syria in his pavilion to the ragged robbers crawling out of the wood, there was never a man who looked into those brown, burning eyes without being certain that Francis Bernardone was really interested in him; in his own inner individual life from the cradle to the grave; that he himself was being valued and taken seriously, and not merely added to the spoils of some social policy or to the names in some clerical document."

SOCIETY.---But there is another source of joy. We are social beings. Solitude is odious to us. We naturally love society. And Christ, unlike so many teachers, who like to keep their favorite pupils and followers to themselves, provided a Society for us wherein we could find that social intercourse which inspires joy. This Society has an immense roll of membership, and on it the names of the greatest sovereigns, the wisest philosophers, the ablest scientists, the most accomplished artists and musicians, the most unselfish philanthropists the world has known. The fact that it is so easy to be a member, and that so many are members who have no care for it, has disparaged its estimation. But there it is, the only Universal Society there is, for there are no distinctions, neither race nor sex nor birth, and the only Society in which it is the habitual custom for its members all alike to receive of the great Loving Cup of their Lord's Body and Blood. Not only is Christ the Vine, but the Church is the Vine. For the true vine, by its tendrils, is self-sacrificing love, not only draws us to the Father and to Jesus, but to one another. Vines not only cling to their own support, but often twine round one another, and thus make the vineyard one great shelter of mutual interlacing leaves.

It is true the Church as we know it does not present very many attractions. It is spoilt through selfish members using it for their own advantage, and through a natural tendency to measure its greatness by the little bit we know. But now and again, we realize its glory, the lone line of witnesses stretching through the centuries, and on other occasions, as when a missionary tells us, its power as we look at the great deeds that are done in the most unlikely places. And beside all this there is no one who does not bless the Church for the friends she has given him, the best he ever had. There is no doubt we ought to have more joy out of this fellowship than we have. It is not Christ's fault, but partly the fault of our own narrow prejudices, and partly that of the Church in not making better provision to satisfy the social needs of her members.

Again and again it has been said to me, "I have found such and such a church; I like the preaching and the service [ritual]; I make my Communions there; but I don't know anybody. Nobody has shown me any help; nobody has said anything to me; nobody is interested in me." Well, there is a way in which every one of us could do something to realize the social ideal of the Universal Church. We could stretch out the right hand of fellowship to our brother-worshippers, and do something to break down a little of our stiffness and shyness, and enable people to realize---what, as a matter of fact, they do feel in their hearts---the bond which unites all those who meet together in the mystical Body of Christ.

PURPOSE.---But perhaps the greatest source of joy comes through the knowledge of what our Lord aims at effecting in us. The purpose of the vine is to produce fruit; that is its object. And the purpose of Christ is to produce character, character like to His own. It is not good works that He seeks, but good fruit. Now, as no one can have a continual feast of gladness who is barren and unfruitful, so he cannot be a stranger to true happiness who is fulfilling the great end of existence and bringing forth the fruit of a holy and useful life. The thought that Christ has us in hand, and that He will not cease His endeavors before He has made each one of us perfect after our measure is, perhaps, the most uplifting thought we can know. We rejoice when our health is improving, still more when we are becoming more proficient in our work and business; but the greatest joy comes from the belief that He is transforming our character. Naturally we do not see it, for with every improvement there comes a clearer knowledge of our increasing need of it. We are like the pianist, who, whilst thankful for the enjoyment he gives others, yet is not without some discontent as he realizes with every step he takes how much further he has to go. So with us. We lament our slow progress, sometimes feeling it is no good going on; and then He says to us: Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his stature? It, then, ye are not able to do that which is least, why are ye anxious concerning the rest? Worrying and fretting will not help. All you have to do is to abide in Me, and then the progress comes of itself.

But all is not done in a moment. 'All real work is slow, and all true development by minute, slight, and insensible metamorphoses. And the higher the structure the slower the progress. As the biologist runs his eyes over the long ascent of life, he sees the lowest form of animals develop in an hour; and the next above these reach maturity in a day; those higher still takes weeks or months to perfect; but the few at the top demand the long experiment of years .. . . As the man is to the animal in the slowness of his progress, so is the spiritual man to the natural man. Foundations that have to bear the weight of an eternal life must be surely laid. If character is to wear for ever, who will wonder or grudge that it cannot be developed in a day? But however slow, provided we do not throw ourselves away, the issue is sure.

Aristotle lays it down, "that God and Nature are not unprofitable workers, but what they work at they carry to its end. And God created man that He might have pleasure in him."

There is, of course, much in this character-making that we do not understand and do not like. 'Every branch in me that bears fruit he cleanseth it, that it may bring more fruit.' His discipline, like that of the surgeon or skilled teacher, is designed to perfect the moral character.

Christ's best scholars have been so sure of this that they have learnt with St Paul to rejoice in infirmities and distresses. At first this seems startling, but we know how the great adventurers have, in spite of toil and suffering, experienced great exhilaration. Periods of depression have been pushed aside, humor and light-heartedness have sprung up as from a secret spring. They have had their joy. The discovery of the other life is a far greater and more exciting quest. If it imposes on all who make it patience, discipline, and hardihood, the assurance that we have a Companion on the way ought to be an increasing stimulus and give the buoyancy and cheerfulness that always distinguishes the good traveler. The more so that we know no leader loved his men, no general his army, as He. The atmosphere may at times be chilly, the road dull, but His love makes up for it all.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha