The Felicity of Christ
John Flavel writes:
Christ [is] the very essence of all delights and pleasures, the very soul and substance of them. As all the rivers are gathered into the ocean, which is the congregation or meeting-place of all the waters in the world: so Christ is that ocean in which all true delights and pleasures meet. . . . His excellencies are pure and unmixed; he is a sea of sweetness without one drop of gall.
The two eldest Bennet sisters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are best friends, but their personalities are like night and day. Elizabeth is cynical, contemplative. Jane is ever-optimistic, perhaps even naive. She can think of nothing bad to say about anyone. If anyone ever wrongs her, she instinctively forgives (if she can even see the wrong to begin with). In one scene, Jane and Elizabeth are celebrating Jane’s engagement to be married. This exchange grabs me:
“I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed!” cried Jane. “Oh! Lizzy, why am I thus singled from my family, and blessed above them all! If I could but see you as happy! If there were but such another man for you!”
[Elizabeth replied:] “If you were to give me forty such men, I never could be so happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness.”
There is Spiritual truth here! Had we forty shiny idols to buoy our affections, still these affections could not be mustered to enduring happiness. Had we forty ways into religious devotion to God, if none of those forty were Christlikeness through gospel power, we “never could be so happy.”
“Have this mind among yourselves,” Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5, speaking of Christ’s attitude. Weymouth renders the verse, “Let the same disposition be in you which was in Christ Jesus.”
There is good news. Romans 8:29 tells us that Christians are predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. We will have his disposition.
The felicity of Christ is conferred to his bride. Through the power of his Spirit, we receive the mind of Christ and the Spirit’s fruit, which may be another way to say Christ’s disposition. Even the persecuted church has cause for great joy, for unbounded happiness of soul. Because they know Christ in his suffering, they know Christ in the joy set before him. They know Christ in his gospel, which is the antidote for universal despair.
Until we have his disposition, his goodness, we can never have his happiness.
(from Gospel Deeps (91-92), coming next month from Crossway. Preorder from Amazon.)