This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
By R. . SLEDD,
" The joy of the Lord is your strength."— eh. viii, 10.
There was a statute of the Mosaic code which re-
quired that the whole Law should be read to the
people once in every seven years. The time ap-
pointed for this reading was during the celebration of
the Feast of Tabernacles. This provision necessarily
fell into neglect during the captivity. Its restoration
is recorded in this chapter.
The people having gathered themselves together,
Ezra the scribe, standing on a platform which had
been made for the purpose, read in their hearing the
Book of the Law of Moses, continuing the reading
from day to day until the whole was completed. The
language of the people had undergone a very material
change during the captivity. They now spoke, for
the most part, the Chaldee dialect. Hence, while
Ezra read from the old Hebrew text, twelve Levites
served as interpreters — translating the Law as he
read into the Chaldee, and accompanying the trans-
lation with such explanations as were necessary to
convey the sense to the people.
The reading occasioned great sorrow and weep-
ing. The people saw in how many things they had
transgressed the law of God. They heard the curses
n6 True Heroism and Other Sermons.
denounced against transgressors. And, although they
had done these things ignorantly, they were over-
whelmed with grief, and with fears of punishment.
It was a good sign that their hearts were so tender
and so deeply affected by the word of God. But their
mourning was unseasonable. The day was " holy unto
the Lord." It was one of their great religious fes-
tivals and ought to be celebrated with joy and praise.
They were therefore dismissed with an exhortation
to put away their sorrow, and eat and drink, and
send portions to the needy, and keep the feast with
the cheerfulness of spirit and deportment becoming
such an occasion.
And there is a reason for the exhortation yet more
profound and comprehensive. They were engaged
in an enterprise of vast moment to themselves and
their posterity. The abuses of a century of neglect
and of constantly increasing ignorance and wicked-
ness were to be corrected. The worship of their
fathers was to be restored in its purity. Their city
was to be rebuilt and the desolations of the country
reclaimed. They were comparatively few in number,
very feeble, and greatly inpoverished, while their
adversaries were numerous, powerful and vigilant.
And their success could be assured only by the care-
ful husbandry and concentration of all their moral
as well as physical forces. Great grief bows the head,
oppresses the heart, enfeebles the will, and disquali-
fies one for vigorous, well-sustained effort and great
True Heroism and Other Sermons. uy
achievement. It is the cheerful, glad spirit that can
dare, and do, and suffer great things. In recognition
of this truth, ehemiah gives as an additional reason
why their grief should be restrained and put away
that there is an element of power in religious joy with
which, in view of their circumstances and the work
before them, they could not afford to dispense. " The
joy of the Lord is your strength." The best of all
equipments for successful working and warring —
better than the walls and towers which we have built,
better than the soldiers we have marshalled and the
munitions we have gathered, is the spirit of rejoicing
This thought, under the divine blessing, may be
of practical value to us. How to live successfully,
how to fill up the measure of our responsibility by
wielding the largest influence and accomplishing the
best results of which we are capable, is the most im-
portant of all questions to us as moral beings. May
we not find here — in " the joy of the Lord " — our
greatest strength, our supreme qualification for our
work? Is there not some point in the moral and
spiritual world or some state of gracious attainment,
where we may bring into the very fullest and most
effective exercise the wondrous forces with which
God has endowed us? And may it not be that in
" the joy of the Lord " we may find this hiding-place
of power? The question certainly merits attention.
Let us examine it.
Ji8 True Heroism and Oilier Sermons.
" The joy of the Lord." The expression is un-
usual, it does not often occur in the Scriptures. It
may denote either the joy of the Lord in His people,
or His people's joy in Him. Both ideas are scrip-
tural. The first is a precious revelation; the second
is a precious experience. He delights in and re-
joices over His people; and His people rejoice in
the Lord and joy in the God of their salvation. Their
experience of this joy, however, rests on the revela-
tion of His love made to the soul by the Holy Ghost.
When with unquestioning trust in the Son of God
a man grasps and appropriates the blessed truth of
present forgiveness and salvation through Him, " the
Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit that he is
a child of God." With such a testimony, how can
he do otherwise than " magnify the Lord " and re-
joice in Him? Any other sentiment than that of love,
any other language than that of praise would be un-
natural and strange.
This joy in God as our Father, reconciled unto us
through Jesus Christ, and imparting to us by the
Holy Ghost the assurance of His love for us and
His delight in us, is our strength.
I. The antecedent conditions on which the soul
comes to the experience of this joy are conditions
essential to the exercise of its greatest moral power.
They are conditions of strength as well as of joy.
A\ 'hat are they?
i. A complete and final renunciation of sin. We
True Heroism and Other Sermons. 119
would not affirm that those who love and live in sin
are necessarily strangers to all joy. We know, on the
contrary, that those who neither fear God nor regard
man, may and often do experience the liveliest emo-
tions of joy in the pursuit and attainment of their
ends. Their joys may be short lived and unsatisfac-
tory; but they are to them real joys. But we do
mean to affirm that Christian joy and sin are utterly
incompatible. They can no more dwell together in
the same heart than the most delicate flower of the
tropics can bloom amid the eternal snows of the
orth, or the human body preserve its health and
vigor with the deadly venom of the cobra poisoning
every drop of its blood. This joy is possible only
when the soul has broken away from " the abomi-
nable thing that God hateth," and can survive only
so long as the soul maintains its integrity and up-
rightness before God.
While sin is thus fatal to Christian joy, it is also
an element of weakness. It saps the very foundations
of human strength. o man is strong in whom and
over whom sin reigns. He may in spite of it accom-
plish grand results in life; but oftener than otherwise
his slavery to petty vices of temper or speech, or
grosser vices of debauchery and excess will demon-
strate his weakness. Alexander could conquer the
world, but was himself conquered and slain by a sen-
sual appetite. And how often have we seen the man
of the world after the most brilliant intellectual
True Heroism and Other Sermons.
triumph too weak to refuse the intoxicating cup.
Sin is essentially enfeebling, disorganizing, destruc-
tive; and " when it is finished it bringeth forth death,"
which is the utter negation of all power, " the breath-
less region of absolute and eternal faintness."
The first and necessary condition of this joy, there-
fore, is the putting away of that which is the chief
source of the soul's weakness. It is the stripping of
the athlete for the race, the loosing of the fetters of
the giant, the slaying of the serpents that " crush,
and enervate, and spoil the spirit," the clearing away
of the rust and gum from the axles and pistons, and
the dead ashes and cinders from the furnace of the
engine, and fitting it for its highest speed and greatest
power. And until these fetters are broken, these
serpents slain, and " every weight and the sin that
doth so easily beset " laid aside, the soul cannot hope
for success in the work and struggles of the Christian
2. A second antecedent condition of this joy is the
reception of the revelation of God — especially the
revelation of His grace in Christ — as infallible and ab-
solute truth. The world is full of questionings at
this point. The seriousness of such questionings,
or the reality of such doubts, invariably marks the
absence of Christian joy. The cry of the afflicted
father: " Lord, I believe: help thou mine unbelief,"
always antedates the birth of iov; and it can live in
True Heroism and Other Sermons. 121
the soul only so long as that soul reposes on the word
of God as an eternal verity.
That word touches us at every point of our being —
at every step of our life. It settles the questions
of our relations to God and our fellow men, of our
responsibility and destiny; it discovers the only refuge
for human guilt, the only remedy for human woe,
the only satisfaction for human longings. In its light
alone can we see light, and walk in conscious safety
amid the perplexities of life, and through the shadows
of death up to glory, honor, and immortality. Put
it aside as unworthy of absolute trust, and the soul
is abroad on a sea of storms and shoals without
anchor, chart, or compass, or the twinkle of a single
star to cheer its midnight. It has no joy, no hope.
Doubt is little less friendly to strength than it is
to joy. Illustrations of its paralyzing effects may be
drawn from every position and vocation in life. Who
are the world's successful men? Who its greatest
warriors, statesmen, jurists; its immortal artists,
poets, historians, philosophers; its merchant princes,
its inventors, its illustrious benefactors? Surely not
the doubting, halting, hesitating; but the men of
firm conviction, and determined purpose. These
have been crowned with success, while those who
have lived amid the somber shades and unwholesome
vapors of distrust have sunk down benumbed and
sluggish and comparatively powerless.
Distrust of the truth of God operates in the same
122 True Heroism and Other Sermons.
way. It generates vacillation and weakness with
respect to the duties which that truth enjoins, and the
ends it proposes, and culminates in complete moral
impotency and death.
Thus before we reach the joy itself, in its two an-
tecedent conditions — the puting away of sin and the
acceptance and appropriation of God's revelation of
mercy and salvation — we find two prime conditions of
II. In the necessary ingredients of this joy — in
those grand truths of experience that enter as com-
ponent factors into this joy — there is strength. What
i. Reconciliation — the adjustment of all our moral
and spiritual relations. These have all been disturbed
by sin. There is disturbance in our souls — confusion,
discord, darkness. There is disturbance between us
and our right position, work and end in the economy
of God. We have abandoned that position, refused
that work, and are at war with the beneficent pur-
poses of our being. There is disturbance between
us and our Maker. We have broken away from his
authority. We have put on the uniform and the arms
of his adversary. We have provoked him to jealousy
and exposed ourselves to his righteous displeasure.
There is disturbance between us and all holy beings.
We are at variance with the virtuous universe — a dis-
cordant note in its music— a jar in the sublime har-
mony of its movements.
True Heroism and Other Sermons. 123
But with broken and contrite hearts we come to
God through Christ, and the cause of this wide-spread
disturbance is at once removed. Our sin is forgiven,
our souls are washed in the blood of the Lamb,
and by the power of the Holy Ghost we are re-
newed after the image of Him that created us " in
righteousness and true holiness." There is now
peace within. Reason, conscience,- sensibility, will,
each resumes its rightful place, each exercises its
rightful functions. There is peace with God. Though
He was angry with us, His anger is all turned away
and He comforts us. He takes us into His arms and
into His heart, and cherishes us even as a mother
cherishes her first-born. There is peace, sympathy,
fellowship with all holy beings in heaven and on earth.
We have come to u an innumerable company of angels,
and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to
the general assembly and church of the first-born
which are written in heaven." " One family we
dwell in Him " — each rejoicing in the same blessed
hope, and guided by the same hand to the same
Oh, there must be strength in such a union ! The
material universe with its thousands of ponderous
worlds is sweeping with resistless might through the
fields of space. Every sun, moon, and star, impelled
by the same wondrous force, is on the march, each
helping to hold the other in its place and urging it
on in its course. Any external force that could hurl
124- True Heroism and Other Sermons.
one sphere from its orbit must be mightier than the
forces that bind together, uphold and move all, and
therefore might arrest the movement of all and wreck
the whole system. So in the moral and spiritual
universe, to which the soul now reconciled and joy-
ful in God belongs, there is movement, onward, up-
ward glorious movement. " The principalities and
powers in the heavenly places," " the saints to glory
g-one," the saints on earth, are all stirred and moved
by an impulse more potent than gravitation and all
its kindred forces — the sweet, blessed impulse of the
life and love of God. And any power that could over-
come and destroy one soul reconciled and rightly ad-
justed to its position and relations in the system of
God, may overcome all other beings in that system
because it overcomes the combined forces that up-
hold and move all. If such a result be inconceivable,
then in this adjustment of all our moral and spiritual
relations there is strength; in reconciliation perpet-
uated by unfaltering trust there is invincible might.
2. Assurance; that blessed conviction wrought in
the soul by the Holy Ghost, that all the grace of the
convenant is ours — not that salvation is something
which we may hope to obtain at some indefinite fu-
ture time, but that we are already saved — that God
is now our Father, Jesus our Saviour, the Holy Ghost
our Comforter, heaven our inheritance. Such as-
surance is not only the privilege of the soul, but is
necessary to its joy in God. It is the chief ingredient
True Heroism and Other Sermons. 125
of this joy — that without which it cannot exist. This
is that joy of salvation for which David prayed so
earnestly, and which every gracious soul esteems its
most precious boon.
And who can estimate the strength of such as-
surance? In the concerns of this life assurance is one
chief element of success. He who is assured of the
righteousness of his cause, or the correctness of his
views, or the practicability and utility of his plans,
or his ability to accomplish his ends, will achieve
results that otherwise would be wholly beyond his
reach. In the higher region of the spiritual the
power with which it nerves the soul for work and
endurance is limited only by the frailties of the body.
It enabled " the father of the faithful " to relinquish
all the endearments of his ancestral home, and to go
out he knew not whither to live as a pilgrim and stran-
ger in a strange land, and to surrender the child of
promise to the altar of sacrifice. Assured of his divine
call and of the friendship of God, he stands out in the
world's history as one of God's mightiest men. In
the apostle of the Gentiles it was stronger than death
and sweeter than life. With the prophecy of bonds
and imprisonment in his heart, he could say : " one
of these things move me, neither count I my life
dear unto myself so that I might finish my course with
joy and the ministry which I have received to testify
the gospel of the grace of God; " and he rises to a still
grander height, if possible, when he exclaims, " I
True Heroism and Other Sermons.
can do all things through Jesus Christ which
And in the ordinary walks of Christian life, no less
than in the history of these illustrious servants of
God, may we find demonstrations of the power of
this grace. We have seen the mother bending with
streaming eyes and almost breaking heart over the
lifeless form of her only child, and covering the cold
brow with the kisses of maternal love and grief. But
hear her: " O God, I would not, do not murmur or
repine. The cup is bitter, but in thy strength I
drink it. The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken
away ; blessed be the name of the Lord." There in
that humble home, in deepest poverty, is a dying
servant of God. The love of Christ is in his heart;
he rejoices in the assurance of hope; see! the light of
heaven is already on his brow; with a thrilling shout
of victory he ascends to his throne. O what are the
possessions of this world, what its pleasures, what
its garlands and trumpets of fame, when cast into
the scale against the assurance that I am God's and
He is mine ! With it, though troubled on every side,
I will not be distressed; though perplexed, I will not
be in despair; though sorrowful, yet will I be always
With a scrip on my back and a staff in my hand,
I'll march on in haste through an enemy's land,
The road may be rough, but it cannot be long,
I'll smooth it with hope, and I'll cheer it with song.
True Heroism and Other Sermons. 12J
3. A lively hope. Joy is prospective. It is not simply
a present fruition; but as its inspiration comes from
within the vail, so it looks forward to the future and
upward to the heavenly home for its final consum-
mation. This prospective element is hope, and with-
out it Christian joy has no existence. And is there
no power in such a hope? Was not Abraham sustained
and cheered in his pilgrimage by the hope of " a
better country that is an heavenly " — " a city which
hath foundations whose maker and builder is God? "
Did not Moses, when he bade adieu to the court of
Egypt and " chose rather to suffer afflictions with
the people of God," have " respect unto the recom-
pense of the reward? " And it is written of a greater
than either of these that for the joy that was set
before him he endured the cross, despising the shame.
And there are no crosses we cannot bear, no buf-
fetings we cannot endure, no perils we cannot brave
.in the strength of the hope of heaven. Why need
we be discouraged because of the way? What
though the waters of Marah be bitter and the valley
of Baca be dry? What though every flower of earthly
love whither and perish, and friends all fail and foes
all unite? In a little while the wilderness with its
privations, its toils and its tears will be passed, the
river will be crossed and we will be at home.
" Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ which, according to His abundant mercy,
hath begotten us again, by the resurrection of Jesus
True Heroism and Other Sermons.
Christ from the dead, unto a lively hope to an in-
heritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that
fadeth not away."
And now out of these three, reconciliation, as-
surance, hope — comes as a grand resultant " the joy
of the Lord." In each of these there is strength; in
all combined there is all we can need for a successful
Christian life. There is strength for whatever work
God has for us to do, strength for defence against
whatever foes may assail us, and for the endurance
of whatever ills may overtake us — strength to toil
and suffer, and strength to die in holy triumph, and
on wings of gladness swifter than the light " soar
away to sing God's praise in endless day."
Every one needs this strength for the work of
life. The cultivation and enrichment of our intellec-
tual powers, of the aesthetic elements of our nature,
and of all the tender sweet affections of the heart,
cannot supersede the necessity of the inspiration and
power that come from the life which is hid with
Christ in God. Take the living Christ into your trust-
ing, loving heart. Live in Him; live on Him; live for
" And your life will be all sunshine
In the sweetness of your Lord."
1. 68 FREE BOOKS
2. ALL WRITIGS
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.