The Bible grounds true happiness in gospel holiness. The most holy people are the most happy people – because they are most like God and live most in his presence. The two stand and fall together; man must have both or neither. Any attempt to sever what God has joined together produces a shallow satisfaction that proves dishonoring to Christ and dismal to the soul. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12).
Many people today, both inside and outside the church, attach happiness to improving their temporal circumstances. Their eye fixates on man: his body, appetites, needs, time and earthly pleasures. The Lord lifts the eye of the believer above this world to the true source of happiness in God himself, both in present spiritual privileges and the glory of heaven to come. Christ confronts modern notions of happiness by highlighting the true joy found even in the worst temporal circumstances. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven . . .” (Matt. 5:11-12). Our Lord’s words clash with the modern notions of happiness.
The excerpt below graphically portrays this biblical understanding of happiness. Rev. Lachlan Mackenzie (1754–1819) served as a Presbyterian minister in Lochcarron in the Highlands of Scotland. His life and ministry left behind a spiritual fragrance that still lingers to the present day. Rev. John Kennedy of Dingwall writes, “Of all the eminent ministers in the Highlands, none is more famous than Mr. Lachlan Mackenzie of Lochcarron. Owing to his genius, his peculiar Christian experience, and his great acceptance as a preacher, he has retained a firmer hold on the memories of the people than any other besides.” Mackenzie’s pulpit labors penetrated the soul with searching discrimination, while exalting the glory of Christ in the gracious overtures of the gospel. The excerpt below exemplifies his gifts at vivid illustration and striking word pictures.
All those in search of God-given happiness would do well to follow the pattern provided here.
The happy man was born in the city of Regeneration in the parish of Repentance unto life. He was educated at the school of Obedience. He has a large estate in the county of Christian Contentment, and many times does jobs of self-denial, wears the garment of Humility, and has another suit to put on when he goes to Court, called the Robe of Christ’s Righteousness. He often walks in the valley of Self-Abasement, and sometimes climbs the mountains of Heavenly-mindedness. He breakfasts every morning on Spiritual Prayer, and sups every evening on the same. He has meat to eat that the world knows not of, and his drink is the sincere milk of the Word of God. Thus happy he lives, and happy he dies. Happy is he who has Gospel submission in his will, due order in his affections, sound peace in his conscience, real Divinity in his breast; the Redeemer’s yoke on his neck, a vain world under his feet, and a crown of glory over his head. Happy is the life of that man who believes firmly, prays fervently, walks patiently, works abundantly, lives holy, dies daily, watches his heart, guides his senses, redeems his time, loves Christ, and longs for glory. He is necessitated to take the world on his way to heaven, but he walks through it as fast as he can, and all his business by the way is to make himself and others happy. Take him all in all, in two words, he is a Man and a Christian.
Excerpted from, “The Rev. Mr. Lachlan” of Lochcarron: Additional lectures, sermons and writings of a famous highland minister of the old school, Vol. 2 (Inverness: James Campbell, 1930) 420.