THERE is a large number of persons who profess to have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, but who assert that they have no joy and peace in consequence thereof. They do not make this profession by union with the Christian church or in any open manner, but when they are hard pushed upon the matter of personal salvation, they will sometimes tell us, “I do believe in Christ, but still I am so unhappy, I am so miserable, that I cannot believe that I am saved;” the statement being tantamount to this, that the Word of God declares that whosoever believeth in Jesus is not condemned; but they assert that they have believed in Jesus, and nevertheless they are haunted with fears of condemnation which lead them to believe that they cannot have been delivered from the wrath to come. I speak to tender hearts, or to those who desire to have tender hearts; to those who have their faces towards Jerusalem, though as yet they are traveling in the dark.
If you are really desirous to obtain joy and peace through believing, we trust God may bless you to the obtaining of it.
Take care, while valuing joy and peace, that you do not over-estimate them; for remember that joy and peace are, though eminently desirable, not infallible evidences of safety, There are many persons who have great joy and much peace who are not saved, for their joy springs from a mistake, and their peace is the false peace which does not rest upon the rock of divine truth but upon the sand of their own imaginations. It is certainly a good sign that the spring is come, that you find the weather to be so warm, but there are very mild days in winter. I must not therefore infer because the heat of the sun is at such and such a degree, that therefore it is necessarily spring. And, on the other hand, we have cold days which, if we had to judge by such evidences, might betoken that we were rather in November than May. And so, joy and peace are like fine sunny days. They come to those that have no faith, that are in the winter of their unbelief, and they may not visit you who have believed; or, if they come, they may not abide, for there may be cold weather in May, and there may be, some sorrow and some distress of mind even to a truly believing soul.
Understand, that you must not look upon the possession of joy and peace as being the absolutely necessary consequence of your being saved. A man may be in the life-boat, but that life-boat may be so tossed about that he may still feel himself exceedingly ill, and think himself to be still in peril. It is not his sense of safety that makes him safe; he is safe because he is in the lifeboat, whether he is sensible of this or not. Understand then that joy and peace are not infallible or indispensable evidences of safety, and that they certainly are not unchanging evidences. The brightest Christians lose their joy, and some of those that stand well in the things of God, and concerning whom you would entertain no doubt, entertain a great many suspicions, however, about themselves. Joy and peace are the element of a Christian, but he is sometimes out of his element: joy and peace are his usual states, but there are times when, with fightings within and wars without, his joy departs, and his peace is broken. The leaves on the tree prove that the tree is alive, but the absence of leaves will not prove that the tree is dead. True joy and peace may be very satisfactory evidences, but the absence of joy and peace, during certain seasons, can often be accounted for on some other hypothesis than that of there being no faith within.
To trust Christ because you just feel happy is in the first place irrational.
Now suppose a man should have said during the last panic, “I feel sure that the Bank my money is in is safe.” Why? “Because I feel so easy about my money.” Now anybody would say to him, “That is no reason.” Suppose he said, “I feel sure that my money is safe;” and you had said, “What is the reason?” “Why because I believe the Bank is safe.” “Oh,” say you, “that is right enough: that is good reasoning.” But here you put the effect in the place of the cause, and try to make that a cause, but you cannot do it. If a man should say, “I have got a large estate in India.” How do you know? “Why because I feel so happy in thinking about it.” “Why, you fool,” say you, “that is no proof whatever, not the slightest.” But if he says to you, “I feel very happy,” and you ask him why, and he replies, “Because I have got an estate in India.” “Oh,” say you, “that may be right enough.” A man may be thankful for that which he rightly possesses, but to make joy and peace the evidence of facts from without, is supremely ridiculous; and for a man to say, “I know I am saved, because I am happy,” is most irrational, while to be happy because you are saved is right enough. Oh, I pray you, take care that you do not act thus irrationally before God!
Or take another view. Suppose me to be in fear about the health of some dear friend. “Well,” I say, “I should like to have my friend healthy, but I want to feel myself safe about that friend. I do not know anything about the state of my friend just now, and I am uneasy. Now I can tell you if I could get to feel easy, then I should be convinced that my friend was well.” “Why,” you would justly reply, “there is no connection between the two things. The proper mode of procedure is to try and find out whether your friend is well, then you will feel easy.” Now, you say, “I should believe I was saved if I felt happy.” Why, is there any reason in that? On the contrary, first of all believe that you are saved, and then happiness shall come of it; and you cannot believe that you are saved while you persist in doing what God does not tell you to do, namely, to look to your own joy and peace, instead of looking to the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Christian men are but men, and they may have a bad liver or an attack of bile, or some trial, and then they get depressed if they have ever so much grace. I would defy the apostle Paul himself to help it. But what then? Why then you can get joy and peace through believing. I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to, but I always get back again by this — I know I trust Christ. I have no reliance but in Him, and if He falls I shall fall with Him, but if He does not, I shall not. Because He lives, I shall live also, and I spring to my legs again and fight with my depressions of spirit and my downcastings, and get the victory through it; and so may you do, and so you must, for there is no other way of escaping from it. In your most depressed seasons you are to get joy and peace through believing. “Ah!” says one, “but suppose you have fallen into some great sin — what then?” Why then the more reason that you should cast yourself upon Him.
Do you think Jesus Christ is only for little sinners? Is He a doctor that only heals finger-aches? It is no faith to trust Christ when I have not any sin, but it is true faith when I am foul, and black, and filthy; when during the day I have tripped up and fallen, and done serious damage to my joy and peace, to go back again to that dear fountain and say, “Lord, I never loved washing so much before as I do to-night, for to-day I have made a fool of myself; I have said and done what I ought not to have done, and I am ashamed and full of confusion, but I believe Christ can save me, even me, and I will rest in Him still.”