"HOW HAPPY ARE THEY"
"Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Matt. 6.20)
INTRO.: A song which talks about the joy that we can have as we lay up treasures in heaven is "How Happy Are They." The text was written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788). Entitled "O How Happy Are They" in some books, it was first published in the Wesleys’ 1749 Hymns and Sacred Poems. Several tunes have been used with the hymn. The tune (Rowley) in our books is said to have been arranged by Lowell Mason (1792-1872). Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ during the twentieth century, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3, both edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. With different tunes, the text was found in Wonder Hymns of Faith published by the Standard Publishing Co. and the 1924 International Melodies edited by Ernest C. Love. The original text may be seen in The Methodist Hymnal of 1935 or of 1966.
The song seeks to express the great joy that those who follow Jesus can experience.
I. Stanza 1 talks about obedience
"How happy are they who their Savior obey,
And have laid up their treasures above!
Tongue cannot express the sweet comfort and peace
Of a soul in its earliest love."
A. To have this joy, we must obey the Savior: Heb. 5.8-9
B. Those who thus obey have sweet comfort and peace: Phil. 4.6-7
C. We must be very careful not to forget or leave that earliest or "first love": Rev. 2.4
II. Stanza 2 talks about the blood of the Lamb
"That sweet comfort is [was] mine when the Father divine
I first found in the blood of the Lamb;
When my heart first believed, what a joy I received,
What a heaven in Jesus’s name!"
A. The only way that we can come to the Father is through Jesus Christ: Jn. 14.6
B. Therefore, it is essential that we be washed in the blood of the Lamb: Rev. 7.14
C. "When my heart first believed" does not necessarily mean "faith only" but a complete faith, such as that expressed by the Ethiopian eunuch when He confessed his belief in Jesus as the Son of God, was baptized, and went on his way rejoicing: Acts 8.37-39
III. Stanza 3 talks about the Redeemer
”Tis (‘Twas) a heaven below my Redeemer to know,
And the angels can do nothing more
Than to fall at His feet, and the story repeat,
And the Lover of sinners adore."
A. Jesus is our Redeemer, because it is in Him that we have redemption through His blood: Eph. 1.7
B. The angels can do nothing more than fall at his feet: Heb. 1.6
C. Both the angels and we should adore Him as the Lover of sinners: Matt. 11.19
IV. Stanza 4 talks about His salvation
"Jesus all the day long was my joy and my song:
O that all His salvation might see!
‘He hath loved me,’ I cried, ‘He hath suffered and died,
To redeem a poor rebel like me.’"
A. Jesus came to bring salvation to mankind: Matt. 1.21
B. To accomplish this aim, He suffered and died: 1 Pet. 3.18
C. And He did this, not for good people, but for even rebels and enemies like us in our sins: Rom. 5.8
V. Stanza 5talks about the fulness of God
"O the rapturous height of that holy delight
Which I felt in the lifegiving blood!
By my Savior possessed, I was perfectly blessed,
As if filled with the fulness of God."
A. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that continues to give life to those who walk in the light because it cleanses us from our sin: 1 Jn. 1.7
B. As we receive the benefits of this lifegiving blood, we become the possession of God: Eph. 1.4
C. Therefore, as His possession, we are filled with His fulness: Eph. 3.19
VI. Stanza 6 talks about our devotion to Him
"Now my remnant of days would I speak of His praise
Who hath died my pour soul to redeem.
Whether many or few, All my years are His due;
May they all be devoted to Him."
A. The remnant of our days should be devoted to His praise: Heb. 13.15
B. The reason is that He died for our sins: 1 Cor. 15.3
C. Therefore, all of our years should be devoted to His service by taking up our cross and following Him: Matt. 16.24
CONCL.: The two stanzas from Wesley’s original usually omitted are as follows:
5. "On the wings of His love I am carried above
All sin, and temptation, and pain;
Oh, why should I grieve, since on Him I believe?
Oh, why should I sorrow again?"
8. "What a mercy is this! What a heaven of bliss!
How unspeakably happy am I!
Gathered into the fold, with believers enrolled–
With believers to live and to die!"
Wesley penned these words, originally titled "For One Fallen From Grace," using the past tense in many stanzas to reflect back to the time of his conversion. Most of our books have changed the language to present tense in the stanzas they use (especially stanzas 2 and 3) most likely to make them sound more applicable to us as we sing them. Either way, when we think about those who have obeyed the Lord and received His salvation, we understand "How Happy Are They."