There is a sure path which leads to happiness, if men will only take it. There never lived a person who traveled in that path, and missed the object that he sought to attain.

It is a path open to all. It needs neither wealth, nor position, nor learning in order to walk in it. It is for the servant as well as for the master: it is for the poor as well as for the rich. None are excluded but those who exclude themselves.

Where is this path? Where is this road? Listen, and you will hear.

The way to be happy is “to be a real, thorough-going true-hearted Christian.” Scripture declares it; experience proves it. The converted man, the believer in Christ, the child of God–he, and he alone, is the happy man.

It sounds too simple to be true: it seems at first sight so simple a statement that it is not believed. But the greatest truths are often the simplest. The secret which many of the wisest on earth have utterly failed to discover, is revealed to the humblest believer in Christ. I repeat it deliberately, and defy the world to disprove it: the true Christian is the only happy man.

What do I mean when I speak of a true Christian? Do I mean everybody who goes to a church? Do I mean everybody who professes an orthodox creed, and bows his head at the belief? Do I mean everybody who professes to love the Gospel? No: indeed! I mean something very different. All are not Christians who are called Christians. The man I have in view is “the Christian in heart and life.” He who has been taught by the Spirit really to feel his sins–he who really rests all his hopes on the Lord Jesus Christ, and His payment for man’s sins on the Cross–he who has been born again and really lives a spiritual, holy life–he whose religion is not merely a Sunday show, but a mighty constraining principle governing every day of his life–he is the man I mean, when I speak of a true Christian.

What do I mean when I say the true Christian is happy? Has he no doubts and no fears? Has he no anxieties and no troubles? Has he no sorrows and no cares? Does he never feel pain, and shed no tears? Far be it from me to say anything of the kind. He has a body weak and frail like other men; he has affections and passions like every one born of a woman: he lives in a changing world. But deep down in his heart he has a mine of solid peace and substantial joy which is never exhausted. This is true happiness.

Do I say that all true Christians are equally happy at all times? No: not for a moment! All have their ebbs and flows of peace, like the sea. Their bodily health is not always the same; their earthly circumstances are not always the same; the souls of those they love fill them at times with special anxiety: they themselves are sometimes overtaken by a fault, and walk in darkness. They sometimes give way to inconsistencies and besetting sins, and lose their sense of forgiveness. But, as a general rule the true Christian has a deep pool of peace within him, which even at the lowest is never entirely dry.

I use the words, “as a general rule,” advisedly. When a believer falls into such a horrible sin as that of David [adultery and murder], it would be monstrous to talk of his feeling inward peace. If a man professing to be a true Christian talked to me of being happy in such a case–before giving any evidence of the deepest, most heart-abasing repentance–I should feel great doubts whether he ever had any grace at all.

The true Christian is the only happy man, because “his conscience is at peace.” That mysterious witness for God, which is so mercifully placed within us, is fully satisfied and at rest. It sees in the blood of Christ a complete cleansing away of all its guilt. It sees in the priesthood and mediation of Christ a complete answer to all its fears. It sees that through the sacrifice and death of Christ, God can now be just, and yet be the justifier of the ungodly. It no longer bites and stings, and makes its possessor afraid of himself. The Lord Jesus Christ has amply met all its requirements. Conscience is no longer the enemy of the true Christian, but his friend and adviser. Therefore he is happy.

The true Christian is the only happy man, because he can “sit down quietly and think about his soul.” He can look behind him and ahead of him, he can look within him and around him, and feel, “All is well.” He can think calmly on his past life, and however many and great his sins, take comfort in the thought that they are all forgiven. The righteousness of Christ covers all, as Noah’s flood covered the highest mountain. He can think calmly about things to come, and yet not be afraid. Sickness is painful; death is solemn; the judgment day is an awful thing: but having Christ for him, he has nothing to fear.

He can think calmly about the Holy God, whose eyes are on all his ways, and feel, “He is my Father, my reconciled Father in Christ Jesus. I am weak; I am unprofitable: yet in Christ He regards me as His dear child, and is well-pleased.” Oh, what a blessed privilege it is to be able to “think,” and not be afraid! I can well understand the mournful complaint of the prisoner in solitary confinement. He had warmth, and food, and clothing, and work, but he was not happy. And why? He said, “He was obliged to think.”

The true Christian is the only happy man, because “he has sources of happiness entirely independent of this world.” He has something which cannot be affected by sickness and by deaths, by private losses and public calamities–he has the “peace of God, which transcends all understanding.” He has a hope laid up for him in Heaven; he has a treasure which moth and rust cannot corrupt; he has a house which can never be torn down.

His loving wife may die, and his heart feel torn in two; his darling children may be taken from him, and he may be left alone in this cold world; his earthly plans may be crossed; his health may fail; but all this time he has a part of him which can never be hurt. He has a Friend who never dies; he has possessions beyond the grave, of which nothing can deprive him: his springs of water on this earth may dry up, but his springs of living water never run dry. This is real happiness.

The true Christian is happy, because he is “in his right position.” All the powers of his being are directed to right ends. His affections are not set on things here on earth, but on things in heaven; his will is not bent on self-indulgence, but is submissive to the will of God; his mind is not absorbed in wretched perishable insignificant things. He desires useful employment: he enjoys the luxury of doing good. Who does not know the misery of disorder? The heart of an unconverted man is like a house that is a mess. Grace puts everything in that heart in its right position.

The things of the soul come first, and the things of the world come second. Anarchy and confusion cease: unruly passions no longer do what seems right in their own eyes. Christ reigns over the whole man, and each part of him does his proper work. The new heart is the only real happy heart, for it is the only heart that is in order. The true Christian has found out his place. He has laid aside his pride and self-will; he sits at the feet of Jesus, and is in his right mind: he loves God and loves man, and so he is happy. In heaven all are happy because all do God’s will perfectly. The nearer a man gets to this standard the happier he will be.

The plain truth is that without Christ there is no happiness in the world. He alone can give the Comforter who abides forever. He is the sun; without Him men never feel warm. He is the light; without Him men are always in the dark. He is the bread; without Him men are always starving. He is the living water; without Him men are always thirsty. Give them what you like–place them where you please–surround them with all the comforts you can imagine–it makes no difference. Separate from Christ, the Prince of Peace, a man cannot be happy.

Give a man a sensible interest in Christ, and he will be happy “in spite of poverty.” He will tell you that he wants nothing that is really good. He is provided for: he has riches in possession, and riches in restoration; he has meat to eat that the world does not know of; he has friends who never leave him or forsake him. The Father and the Son come to him, and make their home with him: the Lord Jesus Christ has supper with him, and he with Christ (Revelation 3:20).

Give a man a sensible interest in Christ, and he will be happy “in spite of sickness.” His flesh may groan, and his body be worn out with pain, but his heart will rest and be at peace. One of the happiest people I ever saw was a young woman who had been hopelessly ill for many years with disease of the spine. She lay in a attic without the warmth of a fire; the roof was less than two feet above her face. She did not have the slightest hope of recovery. But she was always rejoicing in the Lord Jesus. The spirit triumphed mightily over the flesh. She was happy, because Christ was with her. (Online source)

J.C. Ryle

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