Ussher on Joy (2)

August 28, 2009

Was rebuked by MW (you know who you are) a while ago for not posting. A busy summer, but here’s a post.

Have been writing something on Ussher and joy. This is a sample of his thoughts from a sermon on Psa. 32:11, circa 1624.

And howsoever the wicked think the life of God’s children full of heaviness, and uncomfortable, yet indeed their life, of all other, is most cheerful, wherein they ought to rejoice […] That it is the privilege and sole property of the children of God, who trust in him alone, not only to have the only true joy, but also the abundance and height of joy, rejoicing in the midst of afflictions, and therefore [the Psalmist] willeth them to rejoice, and rejoice again and again. Wherein we may perceive that he directly crosseth the common opinion, that the life of Christianity is such a tedious task, and uncomfortable life full of sorrows, a narrow way, with a number of other imputations of the like sort; by the contrary proving, that none can truly rejoice, but he who is a godly man, who is compassed with mercy.

There is an old tradition called the risus paschalis – the Easter laughter – dating back to at least the fifteenth century. After the sombre Lenten period the preacher was to begin his Easter Sunday sermon with a joke. The jokes often weren’t that funny and the tradition seems to  have been abused. It was banned by Pope Clement X (1670-76) and in the 18th century by Emporer Maximilian III. It doesn’t appear to have caught on with the Reformers at all. The laughter was perhaps a superficial thing, but it’s an interesting idea – a reminder of the joy that Christians should have as they remember Christ’s resurrection and the new life they have in union with their risen saviour. Death does not get the last laugh! Happy Easter.

Ussher on Joy

November 25, 2007

There’s a lot to be said for studying someone who you enjoy reading.

I was working through some manuscript sermon material yesterday where Ussher considers Christian joy. He says, ‘I would be a Christian, bycause I would be more merry then another’. Gloomy Puritan? I think not. 

He continues, ‘when we see a Servant alwayes droopinge, wee say hee serves no good master’. So, what is our demeanour as we serve our master? He notes how God consumed the Israelite spies for their evil report. ‘Oh, some say, if thou be strict, and Precise in thy life, and conversation, thou wilt never bee a merry man: Tis false: Tis an evill report upon Religion: the best man is the merriest man. Some ministers thinke it their master peece, to cast men downe: the maine thinge that they have to do, is to bring men to joy. 2.Cor.1.last [= 2 Cor. 1:24], not that we have Dominion over your Faith, but wee are Helpers of your joy’.

The part that struck me was his encouragement that in heaven this joy will be enlarged – our joy now is of the same kind, though not of the same degree. And with a wonderful turn of phrase, ‘here, this joy comes into us: and There in Heaven, we goe into it’.

Hope that cheers up your Monday morning.